Book Review: Spanner in the Works


Pat Fahrenfort’s Spanner in the Works captures the struggles of survival in the unforgiving harsh realities of pre-democratic South Africa. Spanner in the Works is a Memoir which narrates a life a young girl forced to leave school at 15 to seek work in the factories and the harsh realities of being a woman of color in a male dominated work environment. Pat moves from the corridors of factories to those of power, she experiences and plays a role in the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy to find that the same kind of exploitation she faced as a factory worker continues as she enters the new corrupt system after democracy.

The book is a harsh reality of working class people who are exploited and hop from one job to another to make ends meet. It is particular a reality for women who suffer from sexual abuse and sexism in the work places. Pat spent a lot of time job hunting and standing in queues, as she works her way up, from factories to University of Western Cape and then government. Spanner in the Works provides a unique view of challenges leading up to democratization.

The book is an honest account of a black women navigating her way in the racist and patriarchal society. The book is an account of history which is worth reading.

About the Author

Pat Fahnerfort’s background meant factory floors from age fifteen in a country where jobs were still advertised for “Fair-Skinned Coloureds”. Pat had other plans, whether she was in overalls gluing spines to books in an assembly line or in high heels dancing as a cabaret artist, she was determined to set her own course, and put herself through university. Involving herself in the struggle for democracy, Pat moved from faculty officer at the University of the Western Cape to being part of the country’s first post-apartheid administration. The Constitutional Assembly set up to deliberate and write South Africa’s new Constitution. Later she is appointed to a deputy director of the Ministry of Labour.

Pat Fahnerfort will be at the 11th Jozi Book Fair and will be in conversation with the Schools Programme. Chapters of Spanner of the Worker can be made available for book clubs on request.

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