Together with Matthew Blackman I write ‘irreverent histories’ of South Africa which are published by Penguin. Our latest book, Legends (Sept 2023) showcases some of the incredible human being who changed South Africa for the better. Spoilt Ballots (Feb 2022), details the elections that have shaped our benighted nation from Shaka to Cyril. And Rogues’ Gallery (2021) lifts the lid on 350 years of fiendish corruption in South Africa.

In a previous life I used to write novels and short stories too. You can see a few excerpts below.


People Who Changed South Africa for the Better

With all our problems, it’s easy to feel bleak. But hold those thoughts, because Legends might be just the tonic you need to drive off the gloom. This book tells the stories of a dozen remarkable people – some well known, others largely forgotten – who changed Mzansi for the better.

Most South Africans are proud of Nelson Mandela – and rightly so. His life was truly astounding, but he’s by no means the only person who should inspire us.

There’s King Moshoeshoe, whose humanity and diplomatic strategies put him head and shoulders above his contemporaries, both European and African. Olive Schreiner was a bestselling international author who fought racism, corruption and chauvinism. And Gandhi spent twenty years here inventing a system of protest that would bring an Empire to its knees.

Legends also celebrates Eugène Marais’s startling contributions to literature and natural history (despite a lifelong morphine addiction); Sol Plaatje’s wit, intelligence and tenacity in the face of racial zealots; and Sailor Malan’s battles against fascists in the skies of Europe and on the streets of South Africa.

And then there’s Miriam Makeba, who began her life in prison and ended it as an international singing sensation; Steve Biko, who shifted the minds of an entire generation; and Thuli Madonsela, who gracefully felled the most powerful man in the land.

Engagingly written and meticulously researched, Legends reminds South Africans that we have a helluva lot to be proud of.

“Nick Dall and Matthew Blackman make South African history fun, they level playing fields, popping myths along the way. Every home and school should have their books.”
Marianne Thamm

Spoilt Ballots

The Elections that Shaped South Africa, from Shaka to Cyril

If you paid even a moment’s attention during high-school history lessons, you probably know that 1910 brought about the Union of South Africa, that the 1948 general election ushered in apartheid, and that the Rainbow Nation was born when Madiba triumphed in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

Spoilt Ballots dishes the dirt on these pivotal events in our history. But it also sheds light on a dozen lesser-known contests, starting with the assassination of King Shaka in 1828 and ending with the anointing of President Cyril at Nasrec in 2017.

The book will leave you wondering if Oom Paul Kruger’s seriously dicey win in the 1893 ZAR election might have paved the way for the Boer War and whether ‘Slim Jannie’ Smuts really was that slim after all. It shows how the Nats managed to get millions of English-speakers to vote for apartheid and why the Groot Krokodil’s attempt to co-opt coloureds and Indians into the system backfired spectacularly.

Entertaining and impeccably researched, Spoilt Ballots lifts the lid on 200 years of electoral dysfunction in our beloved and benighted nation.

“With their trademark wit, levity and meticulous research, Nick Dall and Matthew Blackman have told the stories of South Africa’s long history at the polls in a compelling and entertaining way.”
Mandy Wiener, journalist and author.

Rogues’ Gallery

An Irreverent History of Corruption in South Africa, from the VOC to the ANC

If you reckon corruption in South Africa began with Zuma or even with apartheid, it’s time to catch a wake-up call.

Rogues’ Gallery tells the story of some of the biggest skelms to grace our (un)fair shores, showing that dodgy dealings have been a national pastime for as long as South African history has been written down.

The action starts with the machinations of three rotten colonial governors. Next up we have Cecil John Rhodes poisoning the land with theft, fraud and war, and Oom Paul Kruger’s corrupt and compromised Volksraads. Readers are then treated to apartheid’s finest feats in corruption: from the Broederbond’s perfect ten in state capture to the Department of Information’s peddling of fake news. And let’s not forget the hotbed of corruption that was the ‘independent’ homelands.

Add to this a few murders, plenty of nepotism and a state president who started out as a Nazi spy, and the gallery of rogues is complete. Irreverent, entertaining and impeccably researched, Rogues’ Gallery busts the myth that the Zuptas were the first to capture the South African state, showing that corruption has always been around – and that the tricks politicians play haven’t changed a jot.

“A well written, superbly researched and highly entertaining history of the crookery of our rulers from time immemorial.”
Andrew Feinstein, author of After the Party

What others are saying:

  • If it were up to me this book would be in every school in the country!
    Marianne Thamm, Daily Maverick
    Click to see full review
  • The more people who read it in South Africa, the better our chance of defeating those who use power for personal material gain.
    Andrew Feinstein, author of After the Party
    Click to see full review
  • An important book which is a must-read for anyone who wants to talk about corruption in SA.
    Theunis Engelbrecht, Rapport
    Click to see full review

Rogues' Gallery interviews

View archived rogues' gallery interviews

Rogues' Gallery articles

View archived rogues' gallery articles

Creative writing

I did an MA in Creative Writing, and fiction is my first love. A short story of mine appeared in an anthology selected by JM Coetzee. And my first novel, Holiday Town, was shortlisted for the EU Literary Award.