South Africa: Shots From the Edge - a Photojournalist's Encounters With Conflict and Resilience


In this extract, Greg Marinovich tells the story of the forgotten child soldiers of Thokoza - the 'shameful, bitter fruit of liberation' - and the poignant life and death of one of those soldiers, Merchant Mazibuko.

Bitter Fruit: Thokoza, South Africa, 2011

Sunday 21 August 2011. It was a cool night and the pervading sulphurous tang of the coal fire in the kitchen area of the corrugated-iron shack was familiar and comforting. Thabo and his friend Bongani sat low on seats recycled from scrap cars, sharing a joint, when they heard what sounded like a gunshot. The young men peered out. Illuminated by the sodium yellow of the high township lights, they saw a wheelchair on its side and a man immobile alongside it. "Merchant!" Thabo cried out and ran the few metres up the sidewalk. Merchant was alive but not responding, and Thabo gave him mouth-to-mouth in an attempt to resuscitate him. Thabo loosened Merchant's shoes and belt, believing he had suffered a fit; a consequence of his paralysis. It was then that Thabo noticed the bullet wound to his lower back; Merchant had been shot.

Thirty-eight-year-old Merchant Mazibuko died on one of South Africa's most infamous thoroughfares -...

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