Published in 2009 by Penguin, Zakes Mda’s Black Diamond is a contemporary South African novel that brings into sharp focus the stereotypes surrounding middle class black South Africans, popularly referred to as black diamonds, and many of whom, are beneficiaries of the government-sponsored black economic empowerment program.
The story revolves around an Afrikaans magistrate Kristin Uys who commits the ultimate occupational blunder – she sentences the Visagie brothers to jail for running a brothel.
It is the older Visagie boy, Stevo, who ends up doing the time and he plots revenge against the magistrate from inside Diepkloof Prison, affectionately known as ‘Sun City’ by inmates who marvel at its hospitality.
The younger Visagie, Shortie, with brain cells just as challenged in the length stakes, remains free, and takes orders from jail to do the dirty work for his incarcerated brother.
Despite the magistrate’s protests, her boss, the Chief Magistrate – a black man, employs a body guard to look after her. The bodyguard, Don Mateza, is a former guerilla laden with struggle credentials.
Don’s long standing girlfriend, Tumi is determined to ensure that her boyfriend climbs up the ladder at the security firm he works for. Soon, he will be a black diamond, she vows to her friends.
Meanwhile, Don still keeps his buddies from the bush, many of whom are still stuck in the township and do crime. After a heist that goes horribly wrong, one of them,Fontyo, is arrested while the other, Bova, succumbs to a hail of bullets.
When Stevo is released, his only assignment is revenge against the magistrate, who true to the stereotype, drives a battered Fiat Uno and lives alone with her cat in, you guessed right, Roodepoort, a bastion of Afrikanerdom just west of Johannesburg. However, her saving hero is Don. Will they live happily ever after – with their cats, seeing that Tumi has swiftly exited the picture?
In Mda’s book, especially in the warped, myopic and money-chasing thinking of the character Tumi – Don’s girlfriend, we are exposed to the realities that dog many of the so-called black diamonds.
© makatilemedia 01/2012