By Bob Newland
Liberation members may be familiar with Peter Hain’s previous novel ‘The Rhino Conspiracy’. This sequel is equally if not more thrilling. The author shares his love and expertise on the fight against apartheid both as a native South African, exiled as a child with his parents, and as chair of the Stop the Seventies Tour Committee He continues to support the fight to overcome the apartheid legacy as Honorary Vice-President of Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA).
As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the Blair Government he also had an intimate understanding of The Troubles. He fills this novel with realistic but exciting events firmly based in the current South African struggle against corruption and state capture. The story also touches upon issues outstanding in Northern Ireland since the signing of The Good Friday Agreement, something Hain helped to bring about.
In a similar vein to the theme of Hain’s previous novel, the threat to rhinos, the background to this story is provided by the terrible toll on elephants across Southern Africa as they are threatened with extinction at the hands of poachers, corrupt officials and international criminal cartels. Fiction and reality are intricately interwoven.
While I would heartily recommend readers do so, it is not necessary to have read ‘The Rhino Conspiracy’ to follow this book. Those who read ‘The Rhino Conspiracy’ will be familiar with Thandi, the young hero working with ‘the veteran’ a thinly disguised Ronnie Kasrils, former Head of Intelligence of the ANCs armed wing uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and campaigning British MP Bob Richards – clearly Peter Hain himself.
Key players from South Africa today can also be identified although many appear under unfamiliar names. Another character from ‘The Rhino Conspiracy’ is ‘the Sniper’, who we met previously as a defender of game reserves against rhino poachers, but who now acquires an extraordinary new role. Other faces appearing for the first time include ‘Komal’, recognisable as Kasrils’ fighting wife Amina by those who know her.
The story proceeds at an amazing pace combining in a dramatic mix the slaughter of elephants for the ivory from their tusks, corruption in South Africa, international money laundering political intrigue, kidnappings and murder plots. It continues with an incredible turn of events only to be discovered by those who read the book.
With this, the second of his novels, Peter Hain confirms himself as a brilliant writer of fiction alongside his 20 other non-fiction books. The story ends with a powerful reinforcement of the possibility of a better future for his beloved people of South Africa who have suffered so much under the yolk of colonialism, apartheid and their legacy of corruption. This a sentiment I share with him.
I heartily recommend this book which within a dramatic tale successfully addresses the reality of today’s South Africa and touches upon outstanding issues for the Island of Ireland.
The Elephant Conspiracy by Peter Hain is published by Muswell Press (£14.99)
Bob Newland is a former ANC London Recruit and current Liberation member
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