Last night I went to a bookstore called “The Book Lounge” in downtown Cape Town with my boss Braam from PASSOP. The store was holding a launch party for the book The Unlikely Secret Agent by Ronnie Kasrils. Kasrils was one of the former leaders of the underground MK, the militant branch of the African National Congress that helped bring down apartheid, as well as the first Minister of Intelligence Services in South Africa. He wrote the book in honour of his late wife Eleanor, who died unexpectedly last year. This true story details Eleanor’s own efforts and struggles to bring down the apartheid regime as well as their own love story.
Also in attendance at the book launch was Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself! I was only 10 seats away from him. Unfortunately I was unable to meet him as he slipped out as soon as the event ended, but it was incredible seeing a man of such great influence in person.
The event was set up as an informal interview between Kasrils and Trevor Manuel, the current Minister of the Presidency (basically South Africa’s Rahm Emanuel) and former Minister of Finance under Presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe. Also in attendance at the event was a big ANC supporter who was prosecuted in the Treason Trial (or Rivonia Trial), but of course I can’t remember his name. Kasrils and Manuel bantered back and forth about the book for about an hour and also took questions from the audience. It was fascinating to watch such famous giants of the ANC and anti-apartheid movement first hand.
After they wrapped up the talk, I purchased Kasrils’ book and he signed it for me. Inside he wrote, “For Abbey: Be inspired!” Braam introduced me to both Kasrils and Manuel and I was able to speak with them briefly. Braam’s father was a member of the MK and Kasrils was his commanding officer. Each day I go to PASSOP I am given tools and assignments that I know will help me further along down the line as I join the work force in International Development, but the added perks of attending events and meeting famous people with Braam is completely unexpected!
I now truly feel that I am pursuing exactly the line of work I want to be in for the rest of my life. It is far from glamorous and I will never be wealthy, but I will continue to live with great passion for life and others. Such commodities as affluence and stylish possessions have never been very attractive to me. Living in happiness and knowing that I can make a difference in communities will always be more than enough.
On a separate note, I just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s auto-biography Long Walk to Freedom. It is a magnificent story and has completely enriched my life and knowledge of South Africa. If I could only recommend one book for the rest of my life, I think this would be it.
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb. -Nelson Mandela