Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Writing rises from the ashes

On April 18 2020, Zimbabwe will reach the 40-year milestone. More than half of its population is younger than the country itself. Older men dominate its political system and they are not showing signs of letting up.

Zimbabwe started with great promise, and former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere famously called it the “jewel of Africa”. It was a precious new country. Harare quickly established itself as an intellectual capital and became a meeting point for writers and scholars. And the Zimbabwe International Book Fair was the holy grail for African literature.

The country that emerged in 1980 from the colonial era had had no access to books that offered African history or literature from the continent.

While the rest of the continent was rapidly decolonising, Zimbabwe remained under the chokehold of a stubborn band of white settler renegades led by Ian Smith, who declared unilateral independence and so isolated the country from the rest of the world.

If the black nationalists and intellectuals were not in prison or exile, they were dead, eternally silenced.

After independence there was a need to recover the past, which resulted in a local publishing boom.

Behind the scenes, however, President Robert Mugabe was consolidating power, engineering the massacre of the Ndebele through the Gukurahundi military operation.

His party also annexed Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union to create a one-party state.

A coalition of students, trade unionists and activists formed a formidable opposition movement
in response to the ravages of the structural adjustment programme of the 1990s, which led to the rising cost of health services, retrenchments and exacerbated the brain drain.

Even with Mugabe having permanently left the scene, the country still faces many problems.

The crowds cheered and danced when Emmerson Mnangagwa, with the help of the army, deposed his boss — just as they did when Zimbabwe threw of the shackles of Rhodesia and became independent.

But the new president has failed to turn the economy around.

The country is blighted by unemployment, poor service delivery and there has been an unprecedented crackdown on the opposition.

Though the country’s book industry and related infrastructure have crumbled, a new generation of writers has emerged, reimagining the country and its future.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Tinashe Mushakavanhu
Tinashe Mushakavanhu works from Harare. New York. Everywhere.. PhD English, University of Kent. Tinashe Mushakavanhu has over 3094 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

The South African Bone Marrow Registry celebrates 30 years of...

‘It’s not drilling into bones!’: Misconceptions keep donors away, says SABMR, but a match outside of a patient’s family is a needle in a haystack

R500-million Covid-19 Gauteng hospital contract was irregularly awarded — SIU

The bank accounts of Pro Service Consulting and Thenga Holdings have been frozen

More top stories

Nersa approves Karpowership generation licences

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse has questioned why Nersa has not immediately provided its reasons for issuing the controversial generation licences

With its industrial base decimated, SA’s economy needs real change...

Speaking at a book launch on Tuesday, the finance minister said a focus on manufacturing is critical to stem the country’s deepening unemployment crisis

Defence team cagey about Zuma’s health after state advised he...

The former president was absent from court, but his counsel argued that health matters be left aside, so as to hear his case for the removal of Billy Downer

The South African Bone Marrow Registry celebrates 30 years of...

‘It’s not drilling into bones!’: Misconceptions keep donors away, says SABMR, but a match outside of a patient’s family is a needle in a haystack
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×