Star Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5
The Gold Diggers
Pan Macmillan SA, May 2018
Online Price: R190
The Gold Diggers, published in 2018 by Pan Macmillan is Sue Nyathi’s second work of fiction. Her debut The Polygamist, was self-published in 2012.
The narration follows the tumultuous journey, by river and road, of a group of ordinary, hopeful Zimbabwean nationals, a combi full, who, due to political and economic turmoil are forced to illegally cross the border into neighbouring South Africa to seek better living conditions. Nyathi then skilfully weaves the various character’s adventures from Zimbabwe into South Africa, Musina, Johannesburg, Soweto, Alexander, Cape Town up to the UK.
A multi-layered, themed, and charactered narration on migration, crime, xenophobia, love, tribalism, drugs, human trafficking, relationships, beauty, prostitution, deception, survival, exploitation, depression, organ theft, friendship, displacement, unemployment and patriarchy then ensues.
A confident display of knowledge and navigation across various landscapes by the author. We are let in on the Gukurahundi massacre of 1986, the before and after of Hillbrow and the history of Vilakazi Street in Soweto. The book is fast paced. The eventualities are traumatizing. The isiNdebele, isiZulu and Sesotho dialogues add colour and maintain the authenticity and texture of the text.
The Gold Diggers is not a cheesy tale about blessers and blessees with respect to their transactional relationships whose chief aim is financial, material and sexual benefit.
The character development is impeccable, gradual and deliberate. I resonated so much so with the characters that I walked miles in their different shoes. When they hurt I hurt too, when things were going well I routed for them. I was intrigued by a character in the first book, The Polygamist, who wormed her way into The Gold Diggers and fitted like a glove.
The book is not all doom and gloom Portia’s journey was a beacon of hope. She was a fighter, resilient, focused and hard-working. All the while with a child tailing alongside her.
The concept of beauty that comes out through the experiences of Chanai is an important self-love and affirmation message that every African child needs to hear repeatedly.
The xenophobia theme hit home. The victim was given a face. He was someone’s child, a lover, kind, with dreams and aspirations.
A book where horrid things happen to good people, and good people in turn, resort to unsavoury behaviour. It depicts a brother eat brother world wherein illegal black immigrants, are subjected to unimaginable atrocities.
Nyathi is to be commended for giving voices and faces to a marginalized group, who, whether we like it or not are our reality. The book is a reality check that affords a platform and an opportunity for us to introspect, debate and to revisit the subject of Africa as well as the European construct and colonial dividing measure that is borders. A book that grabbed me by my shoulders, shook me, and reminded me of the fact that a united Africa is key.
5 stars to The Gold Diggers! A well-researched body of work. Articulated with eloquence, empathy and brevity.
— Review for Africa’s Lit by Puleng Hopper
About the reviewer:
Puleng Hopper (@PulengHopper) is a credit manager by day. An avid, active reader and aspiring writer. She predominantly supports African literature. A literary enthusiast often spotted at various book events. She supports literature on her different social media platforms under the moniker: “BookishMamzo”.