Clinton Chauke: Born in Chains

Clinton Chauke

“I studied for the whole year without paying the university, so I was in debt. I was hungry for success. But, during that year, I was physically hungry, too. It was difficult to study and do well when you had an empty stomach and, added to that, were not going to see your results at the end of the semester. I knew that I was paying the price of fitting into previously white spaces that had suddenly become accessible ‘for all’.” — Clinton Chauke, Born in Chains: The Diary of an Angry ‘Born-Free’

This episode features Clinton Chauke. He is the youngest author we have had on our podcast. This is the first podcast recorded we recorded since Letlhogonolo’s return from the US.

Clinton writes a poignant memoir that chronicles life as an angry Born-Free. He starts his memoir by recounting the lives of many South African in “post”- apartheid who are still saddled with the shackles of poverty. He then proceeds to highlight the influx of transient movement that often plagues poor people, moving between the city and the homeland. Clinton grapples with a lot of issues in the telling of his story. He speaks about family dynamics, the erasure of the role of Black women in our lives, the toxic manifestation of fragile masculinity. He speaks frankly about the disparities of public education both inside and outside the classroom. He laments that the state of the township and how it is not conducive to excelling in high school, and that those who excel aren’t the norm but the exception. He then continues to explore how religion was a crutch that held him together but later become something that he hated. He speaks about his journey with higher education and how difficult that was. He also touches on varsity love and the complexities that comes with wanting to date. He also found himself as one of the students burdened by the high cost of higher education and taking a stance against the system by being part of the #FeesMustFall movement. He also explores issues around racism, tribalism, colourism, and xenophobic.

This book is a reminder that democracy did not come to change the lives of many South Africans, it reminds us that freedom is far from coming. It is a sober, hauntingly beautiful account of life as a ‘Born-Free’ in South Africa. As Clinton writes: “my fellow South Africans should read my story because I believe that, in it, we can call see ourselves. Its central message is to reject the ‘born-free’ label, which many people love to romanticise, forgetting its implications.”