Book review: ‘Young Man With A

Book review: ‘Young Man With A Red Tie’ – Bob Hepple

‘Young Man With A Red Tie’ is a gripping memoir that reconstructs how the author Bob Hepple was caught up in the revolution planned by Nelson Mandela and his comrades in the ANC and Communist Party in the period from 1960 to 1963.

Book review: ‘Young Man With A

young manIn April 1954, aged 19, Bob Hepple stepped out of his father’s shadow. Alex Hepple was the leader of the South African Labour Party.

Bob Hepple reveals in his memoir, “I stepped into the limelight after being arrested for breaking a petty apartheid law and spending a night in the cells.”

At the subsequent trial, Die Vaderland (Fatherland), a pro-government newspaper reported that a “young man with a red tie” had given evidence; the description became the title for his memoir.

For the next decade, while serving as an advocate, Hepple acted as Nelson Mandela’s legal adviser; courier, ferried Mandela and other leaders between safe houses and acted as a conduit between the underground leaders and other members.

Furthermore, he arranged assistance for activists charged with sabotage and other offences, plus provided free legal advice to the struggling trade unions. This was the culmination of a career that began in his childhood and youth inspired by his parents’ political actives.

Young Man With A Red Tie reconstructs how Hepple was caught up in the revolution planned by Mandela and his comrades in the ANC and Communist Party in the period from 1960 to 1963. Though the revolution failed, it was the spark that lit the fire which consumed and destroyed the white supremacist regime.

The gripping memoir describes the dramatic events that led to the arrests of Bob Hepple, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Rusty Bernstein and Raymond Mhlaba at Lilliesleaf Farm, an ideal safe house for those engaged in underground activities.

The arrests culminated in the Rivonia Trial and subsequent imprisonment of the leaders of the ANC on Robben Island.

Young Man With A Red Tie is a nonlinear narrative told in the first person present; it’s divided into different periods which create a cohesive and coherent account.

Although the main focus of the story is the failed revolution, the narrative timeline covers events from 1934 to 2013; providing the foreground to the revolution and the aftermath to contextualise it historically.

The revolution is sandwiched between accounts of Hepple’s experiences growing up in a racist society; detention without trial, interrogation, his audacious escape from South Africa to avoid being called as a state witness and the state’s retaliation to what Mandela described as Hepple ‘outwitting the enemy’.

Young Man With A Red Tie reveals behind the scenes esoteric details about the Treason and Rivonia Trials, the underground movement, including the problems and controversies surrounding the establishment of the Communist Party, and plans for a full scale guerilla war.

Hepple’s memoir is an important historical document; providing fresh perspectives about Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and other leaders’ characters plus the difficult conditions they operated under.

In addition, Young Man With A Red Tie exposes the vital role white activists played in fighting white privilege, complimenting the ANC’s struggle.

Hepple exposes the dangers they faced and how their activities led to direct confrontation with the apartheid authorities’, including the scare tactics employed by the secret police who warned him that, “I will never be released. I will be hanged.”

Young Man With A Red Tie is an inspiring memoir about Bob Hepple’s lifetime struggle for human rights and democracy.

The book is available to purchase in the UK on