[The JRB Daily] Zakes Mda and Greg Marinovich win Sunday Times Literary Awards

Zakes Mda and Greg Marinovich were announced as the winners of the 2017 Sunday Times Literary Awards last night.

The awards celebrate the best of South African non-fiction and fiction from the previous year. Each winner receives R100,000.

Mda won the 17th Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for his novel Little Suns, which the judges called ‘a novel of rich, magical African imagery’. ‘Mda delights in his story,’ they continued, ‘bringing history to glorious life in writing that is unique to him.’

Mda, who had delivered the keynote address at the event, seemed truly surprised to be announced as the winner.

‘Oh my goodness, I feel so guilty now,’ he said when he reached the podium. ‘No, really. I was hoping you did a Steve Harvey and that you were going to correct that to the rightful winner. But anyway, thank you very much, judges, and the Sunday Times. I’ve spoken already, anyway. Thank you–and sorry!’

Mda was shortlisted alongside Bronwyn Law-Viljoen for The Printmaker, Kopano Matlwa for Period Pain, Yewande Omotoso for The Woman Next Door and Mark Winkler for The Safest Place You Know.

The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize was judged by Rehana Rossouw (chair), Africa Melane and Kate Rogan.

Marinovich won the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction for Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre. The judges called it ‘reportage at its best’.

Murder at Small Koppie is a damning, gripping book about a turning point in our democracy, which speaks eloquently about where we are as a nation,’ the judges said. ‘It is one of the most important books this year. So far, the most definitive account of the Marikana massacre.’

In his speech, Marinovich stressed the importance of remembering that the miners are at the centre of the story he told in the book.

‘Thank you very much. I want to thank the Sunday Times and the judges, and everyone who contribute to the writing of the book. But most especially I want to just make sure we remember the story is about the miners, it’s their story, and people of that community and what they went through, and sadly what they continue to go through, these unaddressed issues of another great South African injustice.

‘But I hope that the book portrays the people who suffered through this terrible, it’s not a tragedy is a crime, that they are not just victims, they are people with agency who stood up for themselves and did something that’s unpopular. They tried to disrupt the status quo and the patronage system and the exploitation.

‘I especially also want to thank Thapelo Lekgowa who worked with me as my translator, without whom this really would not have been possible.

‘I hope that this award will ensure that the stand of Marikana is not forgotten and that justice eventually prevails. Thank you.’

Marinovich was shortlisted alongside Sean Christie for Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard: Life Among the Stowaways, Christa Kuljian for Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race, and the Search for Human Origins, Dikgang Moseneke for My Own Liberator: A Memoir and Steven Robins for Letters of Stone: From Nazi Germany to South Africa.

The Alan Paton Award was judged by Pippa Green (chair), Tinyiko Maluleke and Johann Kriegler.

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