‘Tahlego Maleka’ by Jimmy Moshidi: A Review


Musa Gift Masombuka


Tahlego is an ambitious young girl who dreams beyond her world, she would like to pursue a career in modelling and anything that relates to the entertainment industry. She was a girl from a poor village of Tswatago in Limpopo. She lived with her mother who was an educator and her stepfather who was a principal, Tahlego has never smelled the scent of freedom in her life, she was abused sexually by her stepfather who threatened her that if she dare tells her mother he’ll kill her. Sejato, her stepfather had a gun and was afraid that if Tahlego could breathe out what he’s doing to her, he could lose his job as well as his reputation. Years and years, this poor little girl had lived with the secret that bruise her heart; she lived like a timid mouse cornered by a cat in her own home where she is supposed to be comfortable.

After a long while, Tahlego could not bear the pain anymore. Although her mother never told her the truth that Sejato is not her real father, Tahlego’s late grandmother had already did the honours and she also told Tahlego that her father is in Zambia, he was one of the Umkhondo We Sizwe soldiers. Tahlego then decided to look for her real father; she had to leave to Zambia. The young girl took a very brave step and left for Polokwane with the little money she had, when she got there she had to ask for a lift from those trucks that cross borders to make deliveries. Lucky enough, the truck that stopped by was going to in Zimbabwe. Before she left, she wrote a letter to her stepfather, pleading to him to tell his mother what he has been doing to her and the reason why she left home. The letter had not been giving Sejato peace at all.

Tahlego did not have even a single penny with her to pay the driver, things gets worse when the driver reaches the boarder of Zimbabwe and asks her to pay. Tahlego explained to the man that she doesn’t have even a single penny with her but the heartless man couldn’t let her go freely after he helped her so much. As always, Tahlego have been a victim of rape- the very same thing happened between her and the driver. Lekgema, (the driver) forced himself sexually on to her and remorsefully indulged himself sexually, oh poor Tahlego. Still on the journey, the truck leaves her on the boarder of Zimbabwe and continues to its destination. Tahelgo had to start a new life at Zimbabwe, she had to learn the language, customs and the life of people of Zimbabwe, and she had to look for a job in order to survive. After finding a job and settling at Zimbabwe, she met with the other guy called Pholosho at a party whom was organised by a friend to rescue Tahlego out of a misery. Pholosho was working at the department of home affairs in Zimbabwe, the deal was to organise Tahlego a fake identity and a passport to cross over to Zambia. After Pholosho arranged fake identities for her, she left for Zambia.

Although Tahlego left her village, she has been all over the newspapers, televisions and she was also reported missing on radio. People at Zimbabwe kept on asking her if she is not Tahlego from South Africa, but she denied and told them that she is Shelly Malinga from Botswana.

Tahlego’s arrival at Zambia started on the wrong foot but eventually a stranger came to rescue. It turns out that the stranger who approached her with the aim of offering her a place to stay, in return for sex, was related to Tahlego. After Tahlego cried her sorrows on the stranger, the man told her that he knows her father but with a different name and would help her to find him. Tahlego finds her father whom she had never seen in her lifetime and they reunite, but it doesn’t end there.

Her father- Victor Maleka, took responsibility and played a huge role in her daughter’s life by sending her to higher institution in order to reach for her dreams. An opportunity knocked at her door when she became the face of clothing labels, perfumes and cosmetics after winning a modelling competition that was held in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, she also became a TV personality through presenting a music show on one of the channels on Zambian broadcasters.

Things gets worse when Tahlego explains to her father the reason that made her to look for him after all these years, hearing the story of how Sejato treated her daughter, Victor got furious. People on the other hand, recognised Tahlego from the billboards and advertisements and a case of investigation as to whether Shelly Malinga could be Tahlego or not was established. After finding out that Tahlego used fake identification to live in Zimbabwe and also cross to Zambia, she was suspended from all her occupations and Pholosho was fired after finding out that he is the one who helped Tahlego with fake identification documents.

Victor and Tahlego had to leave for South Africa in order to get her correct identification documents, when they got there- Sejato was not happy to see Victor, he murdered everyone with his gun and then called the police, whilst the police were on the way, he shot himself dead too. When the police came, they found a feast of the dead. What could have made Sejato to kill everyone including himself? Get a copy and find out yourself.

The author Jimmy Moshidi has mastered the art of suspense in every chapter, we are left with so much more to discover and that’s what keeps us the readers  glued to the narration indulging ourselves in the unfolding of the plot. The characterisation and descriptions correspond well with the incidents and character traits. The incidents can be visualised and are very relatable. The title has two meanings: we are introduced to Tahlego Maleka as the main character and again the meaning of Tahlego Maleka on its own has a lot to do with the incidents that the young girl ventures into. Tahlego- which in Sepedi means deserted or neglected relates to some scenarios in the novel where the young girl was being abused by her stepfather and couldn’t report him to her mother because the stepfather threatened to kill her. Maleka- which means trying, we see this on the scenario where the young girl takes on a quest to find her real father no matter what.

I personally have met with Jimmy, he comes from my hometown. And I read the original manuscript of the novel and I am not surprised that it has won the MML Lit Award. There was no doubt that it was going to win. He surely took us back into the ages of apartheid and to those times where HIV/AIDS was still a killer disease in the world. I would rate it 10/10.


Tahlego Maleka by Jimmy Moshidi is published by Pearson/Maskew Miller Longman – ISBN 9780636152946



Jimmy Moshidi

Jimmy Moshidi is an Author, Script Writer, Goverment Communicator, Videos Editor and Graphics Designer, as well as winning the 2013 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Award for Tahlego Maleka.


Musa Gift Masombuka

Born on 1st April 1998, bred in Siyabuswa and grew up at Regae township in Marble Hall, South Africa. First son on his mother’s and last on his father’s side. Published poet at an early age of 15. He is an Arts group leader at his community. A SATMA Awards nominee of 2014. Musa has explored South Africa through his writings, reciting poems and accompanying performing artists of his community.

1 Comment

  1. Mmatema March 06, at 16:40

    I want yo read this interesting book


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.