That was all the notice Themba Mazibuko’s family received about his death. Cause of death and place of burial was unknown. His white employers didn’t think it was necessary that his family have this information. This and many other events in the book described the rife disregard for blacks shown by the white settlers of South Africa in the apartheid years.
Smoke of Forgiveness is a historical account of apartheid in South Africa as told by a fictional character, Zwelinzima Mazibuko. Zweli, as he is called, is the last born child of his parents. His entire family except his father work on a farm that once belonged to his great grandfather. The farm is now owned by Baas Potgieter, a white settler who had gotten hold of it through treacherous means.
So Zweli continues to grow amidst the various difficulties which surround not only his family but the whole community of blacks living under the Apartheid regime. His grandfather, Mandla, plays a very important role in the shaping of who Zweli is to become. He succeeds in convincing the ‘Baas’ to allow his workers send their children to school. And so Zweli gets the opportunity to go to school. We follow Zweli’s life as he moves from primary to secondary school, then an unexpected disruption of his academic career; his deciding to leave his village for Johannesburg. Thinking that life would be much better in the city, Zweli soon learns that the harsh treatment of blacks does not end in the village but is everywhere. The young Zweli faces many troubles and finds himself moving from one place to another. Eventually he finds help in highly unusual circumstances.
Smoke of Forgiveness is a story about the persecution of blacks in apartheid South Africa and the eventual overcoming. Nelson weaves his tale around various themes, love, patriotism, culture and religious beliefs to name a few. He sets out to paint a picture of the horrors experienced during the apartheid years, exploring the reasons why the white settlers behaved the way they did and the attitude the blacks adopted to their situations. He passes the message that the way the blacks chose to react to the challenges they faced determined how their future will be. And emphasis was placed on the need to forgive and let go of the past.
The story is quite insightful, though the narrative became a bit boring and lengthy at some point and the author made Zweli out to be some infallible hero. Good debut.