Gilbert Munetsi Own Correspondent
The domestic literary sector has described the demise of Dr Charles Muzuva Mungoshi as the fall of an institution as they regarded him as “writers within a writer”.
With 18 distinct published works to his name, the decorated novelist, poet, playwright, short story writer, actor, mentor and translator succumbed to neurological complications at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals on Saturday, having battled ill-health for a decade.
He is survived by wife Jesesi, four sons (Farai, Graham, Nyasha and Charles), daughter Tsitsi and seven grandchildren.
Several established writers constituting the umbrella Zimbabwe Writers’ Association thronged the late Dr Mungoshi’s Zengeza 1 home to pay their last homage to a personality that some described as both a pioneer and beacon of Zimbabwean literature.
Among them were Musaemura Zimunya, Shimmer Chinodya, Memory Chirere, Ignatius Mabasa, Chirikure Chirikure, Dr Ruth Tsopotsa, Shumirai Nhanhanga and ZWA chairperson Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe, among others. Also in their company was the former director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Elvas Mari, who is also a member of the Charles Mungoshi Foundation.
Mari decried the coming to naught of efforts by NACZ to establish a Hall of Fame to preserve works by contemporary artistes, noting this would have been the genesis of any other recognitions such as the National Arts and Merits Awards (NAMA). Through the foundation, he said, they would, however, strive to keep the late legendary writer’s legacy alive.
Chinodya also had praises for the renowned author.
. . . burial set for tomorrow in Chivhu
“At face value, Charles did not exhibit the genius that lay underneath. Of course he was an interesting character who was quick to make friends, humble, thoughtful and managed to combine humour with a sense of seriousness as reflected in the numerous themes he touched on — life, death, pain and the struggle of the sexes,” said Chinodya in his summation of his comrade-in-art.
The “Harvest of Thorns” writer said he first got to know Mungoshi back in 1978 when he was an intern at the Literature Bureau while studying for his English Literature degree at the then University of Rhodesia.
“I had just finished my first novel, ‘Dew in the Morning’, and I was anxious to have him look at it. As a new writer, you could say that I was presumptuous, assuming it was a right to approach senior people in the trade and that it was also their obligation to serve me.
“I, however, regret having turned down his first day invitation to a drink with his royalties from Heinemann African Writers (as I was a devout Christian then) because his wish then was for us to share ideas in an informal environment as opposed to my thinking we had to have the copy before us to review it,” Chinodya reminisced. University of Zimbabwe lecturer and writer Memory Chirere believes each and every one of the late Mungoshi’s works stand out clearly.
“For instance, ‘Waiting for the Rain’ won an international award because it asks the fundamental questions such as when you are educated, does it make you understand where you are, or it shifts your focus? On the other hand, ‘Coming of the Dry Season’ toys with the idea of what it means to be in a country that is a colony.
“Mungoshi even went into folk-tales, a demonstration that he had the capacity to pick what is local and make it international. In that regard he became an ambassador explaining what it entails to be a Zimbabwean in the past, present and the future. He is a unique cut off the same block as other contemporary authors like Professor Solomon Mutswairo, Chenjerai Hove, Modercai Hamutyinei and Nobert Mutasa, among others,” reckoned Chirere.
For Musaemura Zimunya, Mungoshi was “a living luminary of Zimbabwean literature, just like Chinua Achebe in Nigeria and Ngugi wa Thiong’o in Kenya.”
Before he became friends with Mungoshi and the late Charles Dambudzo Merechera, he (Zimunya) had used the former’s works for his thesis in England, the focus being an example of the birth of Zimbabwean literature.
“Having been the first to be published overseas, the quality of Charles Mungoshi’s works exceeded local expectations. People from the world over came to know about an author from a Shona tradition and cultural values shone in his works, making it no wonder that his works began to receive international attention from scholars and academics alike.
“No institution that teaches literature in this country has not used any of his books. Since 1975, generations have read and studied him and for that they have been appreciative,” he said.
Zimunya was, however, quick to lament the lack of recognition for those in his trade, Mungoshi included.
“We have not had a tradition where our parent ministry shows an interest beyond designating our books for study in schools, and yet a lot can be done to remember Charles and his comrades.
“A monument, statue, institution, street or library named after a writer cannot be asking for too much because we will be rewarding outstanding talent. I know we have well-meaning individuals in our public offices who will soon realise it’s a great credit to a nation to acknowledge its heroes in their various guises.”
Aaron Chiundura-Moyo became friends with Mungoshi way back in 1974 when they were both lodgers in Kambuzuma and Chiundura-Moyo’s debut novel “Uchandifungawo” had just been given the thumbs up by the publisher.
He was to later take on board Mungoshi in the cast of his drama series “Ndabvezera” to play the part of a boyfriend, Zex, while his wife Jesesi was the wife to Chiundura-Moyo.
“Mungoshi was moving art, he had literally been ‘snatched’ by art to a point of no return . . . to an extend he no longer belonged to the ordinary. Anga akutoenda kudivi ranaMarechera.
“I rue fate which gave him such immense talent and then robbed him of it to the extent that he had to exhaust everything he had worked for and much more in sickness. His legacy, though, lives on as he has nurtured his sons who are promising writers in their own right.”
Cheru-Mpambawashe noted there were a few scholars who had passed through the Zimbabwe education system and not read Mungoshi’s works.
“He thus educated a nation and there is no greater role one can play beyond that.
“Mungoshi will forever be there because his works did not die with him; he remains a huge part of Zimbabwean history,” she said.