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Unisa alumnus grateful for knowledge that profited his literature

Dimakatso David Mokwena was born and bred in the village of Bokgaga Ga-Maake, outside Tzaneen in Limpopo. Years later, he moved to Pretoria, now his home. He currently works for the South African Police Service as the Acting Section Head for Internal Communication.

Dimakatso David Mokwena at his recent Unisa graduation

Mokwena has a total of five qualifications. His academic journey includes Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the University of Stellenbosch, where he acquired a Master of Arts in Journalism qualification. Seeing a need to plus his literature towards his debut novel, Here Comes the Gay King, in 2020, Mokwena enrolled at Unisa for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Theory of Literature and graduated in March 2023.

"Unisa put me on a good footing to churn out a piece of truly remarkable literature, as many of my readers from across the globe have told me so in their feedback," says Mokwena. Adding, "There are really no shortcuts in academia. You have to put in the arduous hours and work, including discipline to ensure you achieve the academic goals that you have set for yourself."

Spotlight on LGBTQI+ underrepresentation in South African news

Mokwena is currently considering a PhD in Journalism with Unisa, with the supervisory assistance offered by the seasoned Professor Christopher Cilliers, who specialises in media and sexual orientation and representation of LGBTQI+ issues in the media. He continues, "I would like to explore how South Africa's three twenty-four-hour news channels cover LGBTQI+ issues in South Africa and on the continent so I can make meaningful contributions, firstly, to the academic body of knowledge and secondly, to the field of journalism." He attributes this to the South African media's inappreciable efforts in covering gay and lesbian killings.

He continues, "I would argue that if five or so years later, we can all still remember the senseless killing of Uyinene Mrwetyana, the same should be done for gay and lesbian killings in this country. The massive media spotlight on femicide requires reinvestment of the same energy with LGBTQI+ issues and or killings."

Passion for literature

Mokwena says his love for writing took root in 1994 when he was nine. He recalls reading a short story in class and that it had an unpleasant ending, and because of this, back at home after school, he recreated the same characters, tweaked the story and gave it his version of a happy ending, and thus the writer in him was born.

Twenty-six years later, he says the same frustration came back to haunt him through many of the novels he was reading at the time, seeing too few gay characters and LGBTQI+ themes reflected in the stories. He then decided to commit the word to paper with his characters, with the first sentence, and fast forward to August 2022, his debut novel was published: Here Comes the Gay King.

Detailing the novel, he says, "I believe that Here Comes the Gay King is well ahead of its time yet necessary literary work for our time, especially considering what is happening in Uganda." Mokwena says his novel is a story of identity as it details the struggles of a gay man named Peace, who is from a village and is now living in the city. "His ancestors have chosen Peace to ascend the throne and rule his village as king. Therein lies the theme of intersectional identities," he asserts.

Mokwena states that parents struggling to accept their gay or lesbian children will find the novel useful, as will LGBTQI+ allies and the LGBTQI+ community.

Anti-LGBTQI+ laws backwards in resolving Africa's development

Mokwena laments the draconian anti-LGBTQI+ bill passed in Uganda, which outlaws same-sex relationships and contains the death penalty for these relationships to some degree. "I would rather, as a continent, focus our energies on issues of youth development, how we can exploit the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to ensure everyone has access to education opportunities and how this can further ensure the content reaches its full potential through entrepreneurship in diverse fields such as the arts, engineering, and many academic areas." He stresses that criminalising LGBTQI+ people is an extreme injustice to human rights and infinitesimal in resolving Africa's problems.

150 years later and still leading

"Congratulations on the university's 150th anniversary," Mokwena adds, "I commend Unisa on being the leading university on the continent and producing more graduates than any other university. Through the university's model, many people today have tertiary qualifications." He continues, "Well done on the work Unisa has done over the past century and a half, and here is to the next sesquicentennial as the university continues to take bold steps through its higher education offering," he concludes.


*By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2023/05/18

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