Sol Plaatje a great writer, defender of Setswana language: Book

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Sol Plaatje was described as a great writer and defender of the Setswana language, during the book launch of his biography at Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley.

UK author, scholar and family friend, Brian Willan is in the country to launch the book he penned about Plaatje’s not only political, but also personal endeavours during the year 1876 to 1932.

This is the second book written about Plaatje, after Dr Modiri Molema wrote the first biography.

Celebrating the first African to translate British writer, Shakespeare’s work into Setswana – Dikhontso tsa bo Juliuse Kesara ( Julius Caesar and Diphoso-phoso — Comedy of Errors).

Sol Plaatje was remembered as someone who was leading the battle against the 1913 Natives Land Act. He was also a pioneer of the black press in South Africa.

Plaatje was also hailed as a voice to the overlooked, especially those living in rural areas. The launch coincided with Plaatje’s death on 19 June 1932.

He died of pneumonia at Pimville in Soweto and was buried in Kimberley.

Willan says it’s important to continue celebrating Sol Plaatje’s life.

“I think if we wish to look back at this country, to the early history of the African National Congress. Plaatje is a key figure that played an enormously important part in the early years of the congress, particularly his campaign against the Natives Land Act of 1913 and land of course it’s such a big issue today, as it has been for many years. I’ve been working on the book, on this particular book for the last eight years, but I first got involved on working on Plaatje in the 1970s,” says Willan.

Willan believes Plaatje left a huge mark in the country of South Africa.

“Particularly Setswana speaking scholars, they must look very seriously at Plaatje’s amazing achievements in Setswana. It’s over to them to do that work. It’s been a great privilege for me to have this opportunity to work on Plaatje. I hope very much that with this book, it’s an opportunity for other people to share in some of the interests and on the excitement that I felt on working on this icon figure.”

Plaatje’s great-grandson, Daniel Plaatje, has known the author, Willan, for over four decades and says there’s still a lot to be learned from his great-grandfather’s life.

Great-grandson, Daniel Plaatje says, “What should happen is, you have pioneered a particular path, there’s still a lot to be learned in and around the life and times of our grandfather, including issues of selflessness. Whatever he did, he did it for himself as compared to the current context whereby we’ve got a huge deficit of selfless leadership. It’s all about what’s due to me, not what I do in the interest of our people. We should look back and look at the inscriptions of the grave of our grandfather. Our grandfather as in collectively not as in blood related… Rest In Peace servant of your people.”

University of North West Setswana professor, Shole Shole believes the book should be turned into a movie.

North West University professor Shole Shole says, “Plaatje’s life is very special to me. There are so many aspects of Plaatje’s life that are both dramatic and emotional that needs to be documented in a way of a movie. I think Brian did a very splendid work –  the letters and the relationship between him and his wife, that’s for you a subject for a movie. And the dramatic relationship between him and the ANC and the very tragic to his life. I think we have a very inspiring movie from this book.”

Willan is expected to launch Sol Plaatje’s biography across the country.