The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WHEN the late renowned writer Charles Mungoshi was in search of ideas and creativity, he used to binge on alcohol, drowning his own lack of creativity in the wise waters, only to emerge days later when inspiration finally struck him.
The great Zimbabwean author died in 2019 at the age of 71 after being bedridden for several years. While Mungoshi is rightfully acknowledged as a master of the pen, his long-time wife Jesesi has revealed that even that creativity did not come easy for that great master of prose who, in English and vernacular, penned some of the greatest books ever written by a Zimbabwean.
In an interview on the Zimpapers Television News programme, Exclusive Interviews, Jesesi revealed how the late author would try to shield her from undue attention when they went out together.
“He always made things easier for me. Even when I would go out there, he would just make things easy and simple, although it was hard to go out there and meet people when they were talking about you. When you’re a celebrity, people talk, they can even come up with their own stories,” she said.
According to Jesesi, in the build-up to writing any new book, Mungoshi would binge on alcohol, only putting the bottle down when inspiration had finally hit him.
“I remember when Mungoshi wanted to write, he would not write at home. Instead, he would go somewhere to write and in one of those days he went to a place in Westwood, that’s where he went. Usually when he wanted to write something, it would be really difficult for him, so he would drink himself (into a stupor). He would drink so much that you would actually feel sorry for him.
“But when he would pick up the pen and everything is flowing from his head, he would become so lovely. When everything would start flowing, he would stop drinking, he would still smoke but he couldn’t stand the sight of alcohol. This would be the case until he put the last full stop on a book,” she said.
It was during one of these alcohol-fuelled “escapes” that the great author at one time found himself accused of abuse by some women.
“So, during that time, there emerged certain rumours. He was a very fun guy Mr Mungoshi so he would call people close to him, even friends and say ‘hey girls, what do you think?’ He was a man after all. However, sometime there were these young girls and I think they were looking for money and they said they had been abused. It was only when we went to court that it was discovered that they really had no issue. We were angry and we said we want to appeal and get them arrested and the lawyers just said leave this because this is what they’re looking for. So, we just left it like that,” she said.
Jesesi also revealed how life was not always smooth sailing for the couple financially, as earnings from writing did not always bring the financial stability that they craved.
“Because when my husband was writing it was not paying as much but it was his passion. He even worked for The
Herald but it was for a short time and we agreed that he should not work because I could see he was passionate about writing. We agreed as a couple that he should quit.
“Money was slow in coming and writing was what he survived on. When you’re a writer, you need something else to do on the side because you’ve chosen to be a father, you’ve chosen to have a family and family needs to be looked after.
So, when you are a writer, it becomes difficult to look after your family while writing, unless you come from nations overseas like the UK where they treat their writers like gods,” she said.
The lack of financial stability in writing was one of the main reasons why the Mungoshi couple tried to talk their first-born son, Farai, from pursuing a career in the field. Despite their best efforts however, all their children, including Farai, all followed their parents’ footsteps.
“I say all this because Farai, our first born started writing when he was Grade 7 and we could see he had a passion for it. Together, myself and Mungoshi, would sit him down, discourage him from writing. But when it is inside you there is nothing you can do.
When it comes to Farai we lost for good. There would be opportunities for children to go overseas but he wouldn’t take them because he had found what he wanted to do with a passion. I can say all of our five children are artistes. Except for Farai, none of them are employed anywhere,” she said.
Jesesi also narrated how she never auditioned for the role of Neria, a character that went on to define her career. The script for that movie was also fine-tuned by Mungoshi.
“I wasn’t auditioned as such because the producer of Neria had worked with me in 1989. That was John Riber of MFD. We had worked together on a Canadian series, African Journey. I’m sure that’s where he liked my acting because I was one of the main actors on that series.
Just after that, that’s when he started producing Neria. I was also involved in the writing of the story of Neria. My husband and I were part of the research that went into writing Neria because after they wrote the script, they sent it to our home and he had to change the script particularly the cultural aspects because some of the things in it did not align with our culture,” she said.
Jesesi, who scooped the Best Actress Award at the 1992 MNET awards in South Africa, ahead of the legendary Whoopi Goldberg, said she was so awestruck at meeting the Hollywood star at the ceremony, she was virtually paralysed by shock.
“It was my first time going in front of so many people. It was really something else. I didn’t believe (she would be there). John and Louise Riber just came to me and said we are going to South Africa because you were nominated.
When we went there, I was not expecting what happened. It was just like a shock. I could not even mingle as I was supposed to do,” she said.