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'In politics, treachery is inevitable'

09 Dec 2018 at 14:08hrs | Views
The book 'Junctions' in one way is a celebration of the coup that toppled long-ruling Robert Mugabe, ushering in President Emmerson Mnangagwa - for a long time the former president's right hand man.

The Daily News on Sunday Production Editor Eddie Zvinonzwa caught up with the author of 'Junctions', Daniel Mandishona, who spoke about his writing among other things.

Below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: Who is Daniel Mandishona?

A: I was born in Harare and brought up by my maternal grandparents in Mbare, which in those days was known as Harari township.

In 1976, I was among about three hundred boys expelled from Goromonzi Secondary School by a racist white headmaster after we demonstrated against compulsory military service by the (Ian) Smith government.

The deputy headmaster at the school was a black man and we all knew he was complicit in the mass expulsion.

I reluctantly ended up in England where I finished my high school at West London College in Hammersmith. Then I went on to study architecture at University College London's Bartlett School in 1981.

Years later, I would learn that the same black man responsible for disrupting the education of so many young boys had become a minister of education in a Zanu-PF government.

It absolutely sickened many of us. But during the war, there were many turncoats and fifth columnists. In politics, treachery is inevitable.

Q: And creative writing, when exactly did you start?

A: I have been writing since my teens. It's an ongoing process because life is dynamic and there are new experiences every day.

Q: Is there anyone, anything you would say inspired you?

A: I have read so much diverse literature it's difficult to pinpoint a specific reference source. Life's experiences are an amalgam of many memorable and not so memorable moments.

Q: Writing is no mean business and requires optimum concentration. You are an architect, how do you get the time to write?

A: There's always enough time to do everything. After all, we spend at least seven hours sleeping, a totally unproductive pursuit.

Q: It appears you are more at home with the short story as compared to the longer version of prose - the novel. Is it that you do not have an interest in other genres?

A: The short story requires less time, I suppose. But I'm writing a novel now.

Q: My reading of 'Junctions' gives me the impression that you touch on real life issues that affect individuals, families and nations. How accurate is this assertion?

A: Writing is social commentary, and therefore one cannot avoid issues that affect people's lives. Zimbabwe, with its seemingly insurmountable social and economic ills, is a treasure trove of material for a writer.

Q: Junctions seems to be exploring the end of a political order and celebration thereof. Could this observation be accurate?

A: For most people, the coup was a welcome development, an opportunity for a new beginning. Some of us who endured racial discrimination in our younger days felt genuinely sorry for the former president, having idolised him when we were at school and he was somebody much feared by the Smith regime.

But in the end, I think age got the better of him. Once a formidable intellectual, it was sad to see him sleeping peacefully during rallies while surrounded by some of the worst career criminals this country has ever produced.

Q: 'Junctions' - in fact all short stories therein - seem to be saying if mankind was to adopt certain approaches to life, the world would be a better place for everyone. But with corruption, greed among other ills this has not been possible. Is this how you wanted things to appear or it was not by design?

A: Life will never be perfect, which is why evolution is a continuous process. 'Junctions' is really about the time when somebody has to make a critical decision in life. All of us at some stage reach that point. As for greed, corruption and other vices, we all seem damned by the sins of our fathers.

Q:It is usually very difficult for people, especially writers, to avoid the political and economic issues affecting their countries or communities. We have seen this with the famous Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo among others. Has this directed/influenced your writing in any way?

A: I consider myself to have an independent mind, and usually write what I feel like. Unfortunately, some of it might seem politically incorrect, but I do not belong to a political party and hence am not obliged to apologise to anyone.

Q: How do you publish and do you have any comment on the relationship between writers and publishers?

A: I am published by Weaver Press. Before that, I was published by Heinemann in the UK. I have a very good relationship with Weaver Press.

Q: Obviously you are not a full time writer. What else do you do?

A:  No, I am not a full-time writer but a chartered architect.

Q: How do you balance your day-to-day occupation with writing? In other words, where is the dividing line between Mandishona the professional architect and the writer?

A: In life everything becomes blurred after a while, and there's really nothing wrong with that.

Q: Are you working on anything at the moment or how early can we expect your next gem?

A: I'm always writing something.

Q: There are accusations in some quarters that publishers are not good friends with writers. What do you say about that?

A: As I said earlier, I have a good relationship with Weaver Press.

Irene Staunton is a very good editor and can condense a piece of fiction to its essential elements without any material distortions to the content.

Q: What do you say to this paddocking of writers into generations?

A:  I don't know what any such "paddocking" is meant to achieve, not really having come across it myself.

Q: What major challenges, if any, have you faced as a writer?

A:  The major challenge is creating the time to write. But people should write because they have a story to tell, not because they want to make money or they want to be famous.

Source - dailynews
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