Fifteen years ago in this African kingdom, two serial killers were hard at work. Just one of them was human.

Shaun Raviv

Jul 7, 2016

(One of Longform’s top 10 stories of 2015.)

Ntombi Khumbuzile Ndzimandze, one of David Simelane’s victims

I. The Sad Man

IN MID-MARCH OF 2001, twenty-six-year-old Samantha Kgasi-Ngobese disappeared. She had planned to travel to Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland, a kingdom of a million people in southern Africa, to apply for a job at the High Court. Samantha had a law degree from the University of Swaziland and was hoping to use it.

But at the bus stop in Manzini, she met a man who promised her a different job, and she never made it to Mbabane. The man said his name was Thabiso Sikhodze and that…


The news from California this week is both terrifying and all too familiar: Fires raging, seemingly out of control. People fleeing their homes, racing ahead of the flames. Life in “The Burning Season” the title of Lindsey J. Smith’s powerful and haunting story of California when the fires come https://medium.com/s/the-big-roundtable-vol1/the-burning-season-4cf4fb4cd648 captures the dynamic of that race for survival — when to leave, what to take, all the while wondering what and who will be left when you return.

Her story is part of our first collection for Medium, which you can find here. https://medium.com/s/the-big-roundtable-vol1

Best, The Big Roundtable team


The biggest lie about OCD is that it’s funny

Illustration by Eleonore Hamelin

By Emily Dixon

Alex and I have OCD. We’re both twenty-four; he obsesses over the number three, and I obsess over the number four. His OCD is hand sanitizer, a rollercoaster, and a lifetime of going through the motions. Mine is Facebook and eyelashes and asking questions I’d give anything not to ask.

“It’s something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life,” says Alex. I underline this in my notebook.

**

Alex rode a rollercoaster in the fall — the Cyclone, on Coney Island. Until that day…


After the presidential election, the tension in the nation has showed up everywhere — even in the local high school

A group of students stand in front of their trucks, where they fly the United States flag at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 19, 2017. The group of students flew the flags, along with Confederate flags, on Friday mornings this school year starting in late fall 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

By Molly Duffy

After the presidential election, some students at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids began parking their pickup trucks, Chevys and Fords, in a row outside the building, along a sidewalk where other students walked past. They hoisted American flags from the truck beds. As a result, some were called racist, sexist, and white supremacists.

For Will Brouwers, a tall and lanky 17-year-old student at Kennedy, the labels were hurtful. And, he says, wrong.

He parked his truck…


Where a 400-year-old dreamer inspires modern undocumented children

By Diego Courchay

“Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember…”

Don Quixote, Chapter. 1

The school is best found in winter, when the days are short, or on rainy afternoons when the drizzle blurs the details on Stanhope Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Then, as one walks from the Dekalb subway stop in the direction of Irving Avenue, a façade with large windows draws the eyes, pouring warm light onto the sidewalk.

On most afternoons, from Monday to Thursday and also on Saturdays, you can…


Why Cedar Rapids? History provides some clues

By Makayla Tendall

A large crowd circles the Mother Mosque of American at the conclusion of the Iowa Multifaith Rally for Muslims at the oldest standing mosque in North America in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, March 26, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Early this spring, Taha Tawil laid out a batch of letters — some handwritten, some typed — on a checkered tablecloth in the basement of the old Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he is the imam.

Just a few days earlier and a couple of hours to the west, an anonymous letter had been left in the mailbox at the Islamic Center of Des Moines. It was addressed to “the Children of Satan.” …


My family once enslaved people. What do I do about that?

By Claire Vernon Suddath

Cotesworth, The Big House

One October weekend a couple years ago, I drove four hundred miles from my apartment in New York City to an all-day diner near Niagara Falls, to meet a man to whom I might — we weren’t sure — be related. We’d found each other through an African-American genealogy group for people who live in, or come from, or have ties to Carroll County in the Mississippi Delta. The man’s name was Carlos and he’d introduced himself on the group’s Facebook page as the great-grandson…


Yes, there is a fence and it does more than keep people out

By Sandra Sanchez

Photo by Monitor Photographer Delcia Lopez

On a wind swept plain overlooking the floodway near the tiny South Texas town of Granjeno, there is a four-foot high yellowing water line on an 18-foot tall concrete flood wall, marking where the rising Rio Grande waters came up to in 2010 during heavy rains.

It’s proof, says Raul Sesin, general manager of Hidalgo County Drainage District №1, that the combination of earthen levees and concrete levee walls — which the county began constructing in 2008 with federal funds as part of a…


Yes, there is a fence but it does more than keep people out

By Sandra Sanchez

On a wind swept plain overlooking the floodway near the tiny South Texas town of Granjeno, there is a four-foot high yellowing water line on an 18-foot tall concrete flood wall, marking where the rising Rio Grande waters came up to in 2010 during heavy rains.

It’s proof, says Raul Sesin, general manager of Hidalgo County Drainage District №1, that the combination of earthen levees and concrete levee walls — which the county began constructing in 2008 with federal funds as part of a…


A farmer with a weather eye on trade, regulations, and environmental rules

By Alison Gowans

Bob Hemesath greases the axle of one of his tractors. Photo by Jim Slosiarek

All Bob Hemesath ever wanted to be was a farmer. He grew up on the northeast Iowa land that his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father worked before him, and he never considered doing anything else.

What he didn’t know as a boy was that he would use tablet computers and satellite technology to analyze his fields, steer his tractors, and deliver precise mixes of fertilizers configured for the exact conditions of each square foot of the 2,500 acres of corn he raises with his brother Ron…

The Big Roundtable

Reclaiming #tldr. The Big Roundtable publishes surprising, but true longform stories. www.thebigroundtable.com

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