When Elias Mzimande goes to Durban to work on a construction project, he leaves his native village filled with hope for his future in the city. For a time, his ambitions seem about to be realized. He earns a living wage; he marries a young woman of his village; they begin to plan a life together. Occasional discriminatory incidents draw Elias’ attention to the system of racial segregation in South Africa and the double standard which it engenders, but native naivete allows him to overlook the situation and accept this lot. His friendship with Peter, a white architect on the construction project, insulates him from the worst effects of government discrimination, delaying the time when he must face reality.
When Elias loses his job as a result of injuries at the construction site, however, even Peter cannot help. Unable to find other employment, Elias and his family are evicted from their government housing and move into a squatters’ camp on the outskirts of Durban. He gives up his son to relatives; his wife turns to prostitution to help support Elias and herself; and what is considered at first to be a temporary measure becomes permanent. Only after Elias and Lucy have experienced years of oppression and their son has been injured during a revolt of school children in Soweto is Elias willing to accept the reality of his life and the necessity for the anti-apartheid movement in his country.
Written by an anti-apartheid activist who suffered imprisonment for his political convictions and activities, WAITING TO LIVE is a graphic depiction of life for non-whites in South Africa, with a rationale for change, and a fictionalized history of the anti-apartheid movement.