POET MUSE: Mzi Mahola (1949 – 2023)

Poetry Potion | September 18th, 2023 | poet muses | No Comments

Poet, Playwright, Novelist

For many seasons
Our home lay
Under the roof of sorrow. 
Now I know
That from a dog’s withered back
You can tell that 
There’s hunger in a home.

South African poet and novelist Mzi Mahola passed away in August 2023. Born in 1949 in Claremont, KZN, he began writing in 1969. He joined the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) in the 1970s. Mahola was occasionally taken into custody and questioned about his writings. In August 1975, the Special Branch seized his first manuscript of poetry. He stopped writing for 14 years as a result of harassment and the destruction of his manuscript. In 1989, he resumed writing and joined COSAW, the Congress of South African Writers. Since then, Mahola had been writing continuously. His published work appeared in various national and international poetry journals, periodicals, publications, and anthologies. His writing has been translated in parts into Danish, German, Norwegian, Spanish, Turkish, and Malayalam.

His debut collection of poems, “Strange Things” (Snailpress 1994), was chosen to represent South Africa at the Geneva World Book Fair in 1995. “When Rains Come” his second collection of poetry, was published by Carapace in 2000 and received the Wits English Academy’s Olive Schreiner Literary Award for 2000–01. He participated in a symposium with authors from the two nations in Glasgow in 2004 to mark South Africa’s tenth year of democracy. Mahola attended the 2006 International Africa Poetry Festival.

Dancing With Hyenas“, published in 2016 by Ilitha Publishers in Pretoria, is the title of Mahola’s debut novel. The semi-biographical book is an autobiography of his life before he joined the ANC and began working underground.


  • Strange Things (Snailpress 1994)
  • When Rains Come (Carapace 2000)
  • Dancing in the Rain (UKZN Press 2006)
  • The Last Chapter (Imbizo Arts of South Africa 2014)
  • Ezingaqhelekanga (2021) – the isixhosa translation of Strange Things


  • Dancing With Hyenas (Ilitha Publishers 2016)


  • Not in My Room
  • Something Must Break
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