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Indians versus Russians

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An Oral History of the Political Violence in Nxamalala (1987-1993)

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Between 2003 and 2007, researchers from the Sinomlando Centre, University of KwaZulu-Natal interviewed survivors from the civil war waged in the late 1980s and early 1990s between the African National Congress and the Zulu traditional movement Inkatha in a tribal area called Nxamalala, on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg.

More than fifty violence survivors from Mthoqotho, an ANC enclave, Bhobhonono and Imbubu, two Inkatha-dominated areas, told their stories. The former were labelled “Indians” by their enemies and the latter “Russians”. In the interviews they described the assaults, murders and burning of property they suffered during these terrible years but also how they survived, where they found consolation and, when the violence subsided, how they managed to move forward. The majority of the interviewees were women, but some men were interviewed as well. All combined various forms of Christianity and African traditional religion.

The book publishes abstracts of these testimonies with an historical introduction and a conclusion on memory and reconciliation. Philippe Denis is Professor of History of Christianity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Director of the Sinomlando Centre. Radikobo Ntsimane is a Lecturer at the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Deputy Director of the Sinomlando Centre. Thomas Cannell studied at Yale and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He currently works on community technology projects for the New York City Department of Health.  

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Philippe Denis, Radikobo Ntsimane, Thomas Cannel