Morgenster Mission, situated some 35 kilometers south of Masvingo town, is one of the pioneer religious institutions in Zimbabwe. It was established in the 1890s by missionaries of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) now known as the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe.
I happened to be one the people who passed through this great educational institution for my primary education.
Although co-curricular activities were part of our studies, academic advancement was the in-thing at this institution.
Morgenster Mission has produced some of the country’s best brains across the social divide. Among them, politicians Eddison Zvobgo (late) and Kumbirai Kangai (late). Today’s newsmakers include the Chief Executive Officer of the National Aids Council, Dr Tapuwa Magure.
With such a rich history in mind, I developed the desire to leave a legacy in my life from an early age. In the early days my ambition was to become a lawyer and politician thereafter. However, as I progressed with my education I developed a strong passion for journalism, inspired by radio and television presenters Mike Munyati (late) and Charles Mabika.
While studying for my A levels at Chipindura High School in Bindura, I became a self-appointed sports reporter for the school notice board doing match reports and previews. The interest in reading my articles by fellow students encouraged me to seriously consider a career as a journalist, which I regard as the world’s most noble profession.
In 2010, I became one of the founder members of the Zimbabwe Environmental Journalists Association (ZEJA) fronted by journalist Gilbert Munetsi and Farai Matebvu. By then the new global phenomenon of climate change was beginning to dominate the media buzz.
Fast forward to September 2011, I decided to visit my parents at our rural home south of Morgenster and it was a visit that gave birth to the novel Pepukai Kunze Kwasunama.
What started like any other day turned out to be otherwise, when a wild veldt fire engulfed the two villages of Mushawasha and Tami.
The fire started around 9 am and was only brought under control later in the afternoon. The resultant destruction of vegetation and wildlife, the enormous carbon emissions triggered my mind and l saw this as an opportunity to write a creative short story on climate change.
I also realized that such a novel would go a long way in availing climate change literature in
Armed with basic climate change knowledge, I sat down and constructed my storyline. I decided that while climate change awareness was the basis of the novel, it was also going to include the pertinent aspects of climate change adaptation and mitigation. The setting was in Masvingo, precisely in the two villages that were ravaged by the veldt fire.
It took me close to six months to come up with the final product.
I gave the manuscript to my workmates Langton Nyakwenda and Jabulani Mindozo who all gave it a thumps up.
My next challenge was to identify a publishing house that was willing to run with my project, bearing in mind the bureaucracy among local publishing companies. In 1987, a year after the death of Mozambican President Samora Machel, we compiled a poem book in his honour with schoolmates Josephat Chokureva and Bersary Sigarova. We submitted it to a local publishing company and guess what? We only got a response (negative one) some three years down the line.
Therefore, finding a publisher became a constant headache for me but as they say, where there is a will there is a way. I got the surprise of my life when one morning my colleague Mindozo came to work in very high spirits. He was to break the news that there was a Botswana-based publishing company run by Zimbabweans that could publish a book in 45 days.
Without wasting time I got in touch with them and submitted my manuscripts. In less than 48 hours they responded via e-mail informing me that I was going to be the author of Zimbabwe’s first climate change novel.
I completed the paper work and as stated in our contract within the stated 45 days I could not believe myself holding the first copy of my novel in print format.
In 2013 with assistance from The Culture Fund in partnership with Sweden, the novel was translated and now available in five local languages, Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, Venda and Kalanga.
Pepukai Kunze Kwasunama is Zimbabwe’s first climate change Shona novel written by Harare-based journalist Benson Gono. It was published in 2012 by Sowfin Investments and is available in local bookshops and can also be ordered directly from the author at an affordable price of US$5.