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They Got To You Too

by Futhi Nthingila

Pan Macmillan

In the devastatingly polarised world we live in with politicians and activists hell-bent on maintaining an “us vs them” culture, this book successfully and refreshingly shines a light on our shared humanity.   Through two characters who have lead diametrically opposed lives, brainwashed by the thinking of the times (as suggested by the title), the author focusses on what brings us together in a heart-warming and uplifting read.

They Got to You Too is the deeply humane and thought-provoking story of Hans van Rooyen, a former police general and a product of his time who finds himself being cared for in an old age home by the daughter of liberation struggle activists.

At 80, he carries with him the memories of crimes he committed as an officer under the apartheid government. Having eluded the public confessions at the TRC for his time in the Border Wars, he retained his position in the democratic South Africa, serving as an institutional memory for a new generation of police recruits.

Zoe Zondi is tasked to care for the old man. Her gentle and compassionate nature prompts Hans to change his mind about going to the grave with all his secrets. She has her own harrowing life story to tell and, as their unlikely bond deepens, strengthened by the isolation that COVID-19 lockdown brings, they provide a safe space for each other to say the things that would have otherwise been left unsaid.

They Got to You Too is not flawless, but it’s 180 pages are thought-provoking, rightly touching many a South African nerve and yet leaving the reader feeling enlightened and hopeful.  Thank you Futhi.

Listen to this excellent interview that Futhi Ntshingila did on 702 with Refiloe Mpakanyane. 

Futhi Ntshingila is a brilliant storyteller. The way in which she inhabits each character, portrays the inescapable inter-relatedness of humans and weaves the different layers of quite disparate lives is nothing short of magic – Dr Sindiwe Magona

Just the right fiction for our troubled time; it reminds us of the many shades of human that stretch between the binaries of black and white, rich and poor in South Africa. – Heather Robertson