International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Post-apartheid South Africa and Patterns of Violence in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow
Dr. Gilbert Tarka Fai

J.M. Coetzee and Phaswane Mpe are among the first South African writers to bring global attention to the condition of South Africa after apartheid. In Disgrace and Welcome to Our Hillbrow, the two writers highlight the overwhelming internal pressures exerted on the new South African society by centuries of apartheid and the wider legacy of colonialism, just as they explore the volatile explosive history of the post-apartheid era wherein total anarchy has replaced the old oppressive racist forces. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate that J.M. Coetzee and Phaswane Mpe in Disgrace and Welcome to Our Hillbrow respectively try to rectify the popular misconception of a post-apartheid South African nation as an Eldorado or sanctuary as implied by the new dispensation of 1994. This is understandable from the opinions of Ernest Renan (1990), Benedict Anderson (1983), Kevin Harrison, Tony Boyd and Seton-Watson (2003) about the nation as a perception that is more imaginary than real. In this regard, the prospect of a “new South African nation” after the end of apartheid would be more of a vision than a fact. Therefore, the frustrations of Coetzee and Mpe’s characters manifested through different forms of violence result from their misconstrued dreams and expectations. R.K. Merton’s Strain theory (2002) also clearly points out that people brought up in a society that predisposes them to various forms of strain whether political, economic, social or psychological leave them with no option but to embrace a subculture of violence. Coetzee and Mpe consequently view post-apartheid violence in South Africa not only as a result of political shortcomings but also of historical, economic, social, geographical and global circumstances since political change alone cannot magically transform the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of centuries of racial oppression. The study concludes that for Coetzee and Mpe, the hope of a post-apartheid South Africa that is free, just and prosperous lies in a gradual ensemble of efforts furnished by both South African and non-South African citizens in a global context because any egocentric or precipitated drive for instantaneous solutions only generates violence as demonstrated by the characters in the novels under study.

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