Fred Khumalo (1966 - ) was born in Chesterville, and grew up in Mpumalanga Township near the industrial area of Hammersdale, Durban.
A journalism graduate from Technikon Natal, Durban, Khumalo was a runner-up for the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award in 1991. In 1996, he was a runner-up for the Bertrams V.O Literature of Africa Award and in 2004 the manuscript for his novel, The Oneness of Two in Three, received an honourable mention in the inaugural European Union Literary Awards. The following year his novel, Bitches' Brew was joint winner of the same award. The novel, a South African love story set in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, focuses on the epic love affair between Bra Zakes, a former amateur musician, bootlegger, mercenary and killer of great repute and Lettie, a shebeen queen. It traces the couple's lives and loves through the interweaving of history and memory in the tradition of village storytellers.
Khumalo has worked for a variety of newspapers including UmAfrika, City Press, This Day, Sunday World, Toronto Star in various capacities as a reporter, columnist and editor. He has also published numerous short-stories in commercial magazines and literary journals including Staffrider, Tribute, Drum and Pace. Last year his autobiographical novel Touch My Blood, a no-holds-barred account about coming of age in a Durban township in 1980s South Africa and set against a background of township life, gangsterism and political violence, was published to excellent reviews.
After Bitches' Brew Khumalo published Seven Steps to Heaven (2008), which features some of characters introduced in Bitches' Brew. He also published Zuma: The Biography of Jacob Zuma (2008). He comments: “I only decided to be a writer when I was in high school and started reading magazines such as Tribute, Drum and Pace. I became a writer because there are so many stories to tell.”
Khumalo now lives in Johannesburg. He worked as the Insight & Opinion editor for The Sunday Times, and for whom he also wrote a popular weekly socio-political column. He currently works as a freelance journalist and columnist.
Extract from Touch My Blood Pink threads and black consciousness
Unlike the Mapantsulas and tsotsis whose mission in life was to steal people's money, the Dudes were a bunch of boys whose raison d'être was fun, fun and more fun
As a teenager who had seen too much crime too early in his life, I decided to concentrate on my studies in the belief that education would be my passport out of the poverty, ignorance and violence of the ghetto. I studied hard. But I also got involved in a new craze sweeping the black townships of Durban.
To call the American Dudes a gang would be a misnomer. They were a subculture that had sprung from the American hip-hop movement.
When I joined the movement we distinguished ourselves from other subcultures, such as the Mapantsulas who wore trousers with stovepipe legs, by wearing tight-fitting Bang-Bang jeans, tight-fitting muscle tops and high-heeled Watson shoes. Our hair would be done in either long bushy Afros or in gleaming curls. Our clothes were always bright — pink, orange, yellow — as if to announce to all and sundry: look at me, I am a cheerful clean boy who doesn’t skulk around street corners.
Unlike the Mapantsulas and tsotsis whose mission in life was to steal people’s money, the Dudes were a bunch of boys whose raison d’être was fun, fun and more fun.
Those members of the Dudes already employed worked mainly at record bars or as DJs at top discos.
Weekends were for partying. We would hire a minibus taxi and drive from township to township playing disco music on the music system we had clubbed together to buy. People throwing birthday parties would hire us as DJs.
And our happy clean image made us popular with the fairer sex. Old ladies were heard to say, “I’d rather my little Mavis went out with one of these colourful boys called amaDudu, than those knife-wielding tsotsis.”
You had to be brave to be seen in the outfits that we wore. Green, yellow, maroon, powder blue. Outrageous stuff, garish stuff, bright stuff. Earth, Wind and Fire stuff. Michael Jackson (pre-nose job) stuff.
Tsotsis began to hate us. They said we stole their girls. How do you steal a girl? Dating is a two-way process. But they didn’t see it this way.
One day I was visiting my latest girlfriend in another section of the township. There I was, resplendent in my pink short-sleeved Pierre Cardin shirt with matching pink Christian Dior slacks and maroon-and-navy loafers. As we walked we were accosted by a group of mean-looking young men in pantsula-style attire, their trousers hanging so low they could have fallen off at any moment. There were five of them. All much older than me, and some of them troublesome Mapantsulas.
“Which of the two girls do you choose, Roy?” one of the boys said.
“I think I like the darkcomplexioned one in the pink outfit.”
2005. Bitches' Brew. Johannesburg: Jacana Media.
2006. Touch My Blood: The Early Years. Cape Town: Umuzi.
2007. Seven Steps to Heaven. Johannesburg: Jacana Media.
2010. Zulu Boy Gone Crazy: Hilarious Tales Post Polokwane. Sandton: KMM Review Publishing.
2012. The Lighter Side of Robben Island. (Co-Authors: Gugu Kunene & Paddy Harper). Houghton: Makana