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South African apartheid writer found dead in house

By Henry Munene | Published Fri, January 20th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 19th 2017 at 21:48 GMT +3
Peter Abrahams

Renowned South African novelist and apartheid critic Peter Abrahams is dead. Abrahams, whose novel, Mine Boy, was a set book in Kenya in the late 90s, was found lying in a pool of blood in his house in Jamaica Thursday. He was 97.

Jamaican police sources said initial investigations indicated the journalist and radio commentator may have fallen off his wheelchair but the large pool of blood found at the scene of his death triggered a foul-play theory.

Last year, his house was broken into four times, necessitating installation of an alarm, police said.

Abrahams was among the first African writers to gain international acclaim, alongside fellow anti-apartheid writers such as Alex La Guma.

In Mine Boy, he writes about the harsh treatment of mine workers and race relations in Apartheid South Africa, matter that simmers in the country's politics to date.

Abrahams's personal encounter with racism is best captured by the fact that his mixed-race wife, with whom he had three children, regretted marrying a black man.

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Born Peter Henry Abrahams Deras on March 3, 1919 in Johannesburg to an Ethiopian father and a coloured mother, Abrahams left South Africa in 1939 after he was charged with treason. He settled in Britain, where he worked as a journalist, writing for The Daily Worker, The Observer in England, and the The New York Herald Tribune in the US.

In London he met Pan-Africanists such as Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkurumah. From London he was exiled in Jamaica, where he has lived till his death.

"I visited Peter Abrahams in his house in Jamaica. He had just reclaimed rights for his Mine Boy and A Wreath for Udomo from the African Writers Series and I took them up," East African Educational Publishers Chairman, Dr Henry Chakava told The Standard.

His other works include Dark Testament, Song of the City, The Path of Thunder, Wild Conquest, Return to Goli, Tell Freedom, A Night of Their Own, The Island is Now and The View From Koyaba.