The South African writer Sipho Sepamla (1932 – 2007) was born in a township near Krugersdorp. In his novel ‘The root is one’ he writes about the township Johnstown near Bergersdorp. So the topic is not far from his own roots.
The local government of the white Bergersdorp has decided to flatten Johnstown. This location was named after John, one of the workers of Joseph Stein. To the local people this location is their location, even though it is like an open air prison. A majority of the inhabitants does not want to move to another location. Even the luring prospect of better housing is not able to convince them. The present location is a rat infested place, the walls are dripping with water. Poverty is all around. Where is a future hidden in this place?
The government of Bergersdorp tries to use local people to convince the other inhabitants of Johnstown that is a good step forward to move to a new location. One of the people that side with the white government is Jakhals Baloyi. His son Juda seems to take an opposite view, but is easily swayed from one position to another. He organizes a strike (after consultation with the Bergersdorp resident Ray Kanich) against the deportation of the people, but in the end he does not participate (on the orders of the very same Kanich). This position makes it difficult in his friendship with Spiwo, who wants to take an active stand against the deportation. His friend even plans the abduction of one of the white administrators of the location. Mandy tries to have a calming influence on both Spiwo and Juda, but she is not able to get them to view things from a different perspective.
Sepamla writes about six days in the life of the location and the protagonists. Six days that show the difficulties that the inhabitants of the location experience. The battle of loyalty and resistance. Loyalty to the white government, but also loyalty to friends and neigbours and co-workers. Resistance against the white government of Bergersdorp, but also resistance against people like Jakhals Baloyi, de kaffirboetie. Loyalty to your own convictions or will you resist them?
Who will suffer in the end and who will gain the upperhand?
Sipho Sepamla – The root is one – 1979