A Former Wits journalism student was one of the top contestants in the inaugural African Writing Prize for Flash Fiction competition this week.

The competition attracted 151 entries from 16 countries.

Saaleha Bamjee’s story titled Fare saw her in the top eight selections, along with two other South Africans. Entering a writing competition for the first time, after a friend sent her the link, Bamjee says she’s “something of an oddly reluctant writer”.

She says writing has been something she has wanted to do seriously, since a young age but procrastination always did her in. “However, the result of the competition has been very encouraging.” 

The acknowledgment of her story and seeing that it does interest others has urged her to put more effort into her dream of getting her writing published.

Fare tells the tale of a taxi driver in Cairo, who leads a tiring, relentless life until a passenger, Death, hails him down.

The story was inspired by an experience Bamjee had in Cairo, Egypt, where she ended up getting the same taxi driver twice, hailing him the second time in a location many kilometres from where she had first met him.

This experience left her thinking of a story where a taxi driver keeps getting the same strange passenger regardless of where he is and Fare was created.

Bhamjee describes Cairo as “the kind of place where stories stay suspended in the air just waiting for someone to pluck them down”.  

Fellow South African, Jayne Bauling, was overall winner in the competition for her story Settled, which follows an African mat weaver’s move from her informal settlement home to a low-cost housing residence.

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature of 1000 words or less. It is also known as short-shortfiction, with some stories being 300 words or even a mere 55 words.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, the competition judge, says “flash fiction may be short, but it is just as challenging as any other form of writing”.