The Herald (Harare)

3 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Know Your Author - Mashingaidze Gomo

Mashingaidze Gomo is a Zimbabwean novelist who has found fame in writing about Africanism and the struggle for independence. His book "Fine Madness" the first, Gomo explains how Africa has been turned into a battle ground to test the western made weapons.

He traces how the African have been taught to destroy their economies by destroying the very infrastructure that should be the impetus of national development.

Born in Highfield in 1964, Gomo whose parents both hailed from Chihota, spent the first 10 years of his life in his rural home. He attended Gukuta Primary school from Grade One to Grade Four before moving to Zuvarabuda Primary School in Glen Norah in Harare for Grade Five. He later moved to Ruvheneko Primary School where he finished his primary education.

He moved to Highfield Community School for his junior secondary education and to Kwenda High School in Hwedza for his Ordinary level studies.

"I was like a nomad then going from one school to the other and I came back to the then Salisbury for my Advanced level studies at Highfield 1 High.

"These years have a certain influence on my life. As you are aware every school you attend has its own rules and regulations. These coupled with the differences in environments can shape who you are. The different schools I attended thus helped build in me a more complex character," he said.

His father was a driver at Lobels Bakeries and Gomo is the fourth in a family of eight.

Gomo says he owes everything he has achieved to his mother arguing that she had a great influence in his social life and even education.

Gomo's mother, a peasant farmer, believed in education despite the fact that she only went as far as Standard Three. He says his mother was able to teach her children how to read and write in their early school days.

"My mother taught me that a person does not get intelligence from education but it's natural. Education only polishes what is already there.

"If a person is an outlaw by nature education can only help but polish the dirt in you and in many cases people use education for their sinister deeds," he added.

Gomo, who is a Pan-Africanist and whose beliefs are based on his African values, says he wants to impart all the knowledge gained from his mother to his children.

"As a person you have to believe in something and it is suicidal not to belong somewhere and I am guided by my mother's values. She also taught me that fear is only natural in human beings but what is important is how you react when you are afraid," Gomo said.

After completing his Advanced levels, Gomo joined the Airforce of Zimbabwe as an apprentice where he was to stay for almost 23 years.

At the age of ten, Gomo developed a keen interest in literature at the age of 10. His Grade Four teacher bought Patrick Chakaipa's book Karikoga Gumi Remiseve from the Rhodesia Literature Bureau and read it to them.

From that book, Gomo started to appreciate literature and began documenting all his thoughts and views in short stories.

At the airforce he continued to document his experiences of young adult life and his experiences in a book titled Dead Beat.

Though the book was never published, one of the doctors in the army whom he can only remember as Dr Chiweshe read it and told him that it was a good book because it helped him to unwind.

"Dr Chiweshe told me that if I had not written that book I would have lost my mind because of how I had documented the pressures of being a youth and being in the army," Gomo noted.

He had many bad experiences in the army which by then was still dominated by whites. Though he had seen the war as a teenager but was not old enough to participate in it, Gomo later understood the rationale behind Zimbabweans who took up arms and joined the war.

"I had never been taught to be inferior to whites when I was growing up and one of my instructors named Godwin always felt offended by my attitude and he would threaten me a lot

"My army experiences shaped my novel, 'A Fine Madness'. A brother of mine had advised me to put my thoughts in writing again as they might help youths understand where we come from as Africans," Gomo cited.

Gomo, who says his book from a layman's point of view is just but madness bringing out a collection of ironies from the war, said he wanted people to know the truth about what really transpires in a war situation and who is responsible.

The book "Fine Madness" is about a documentation of the human side of the war in that when people talk about war they think of solders and weapons but usually forget to consider its impact on the society.

It highlights war as a scourge in Africa and the need for peace in order to avoid war because it takes lives, freedom and happiness.

Gomo added that if Africans understood these things none would accept money to fight their own tribesman because there is no honour in killing or being killed.

He gives an example of the Mozambican war in which he participated.

"I saw the Renamo bandits destroying critical infrastructure for national development from bridges and roads to buildings and electricity power lines.

"Fortunately that did not happen in Zimbabwe during the war because our fighters had a vision for the country and thus they could not destroy what they were fighting for," he said.

"There are some things that people just ignore as normal like Abel Muzorewa saying that 'if you tell (Ian) Smith to go home where would he go, where is home?' I mean, these are the people who made our brothers go to war and now you are feeling pity for them."

His novel also gives an insider's perspective on the nature of war and the effect on African identities, filling a longstanding gap in the literature of Africa.

Gomo has written four other works namely, Bleeding Piece of Earth (novel), Construction House (novel), Memory (novel) and a collection of folktales which he has not given a title yet.

Having worked in the army most of his adult life, Gomo is also a family man. His wife is a civil servant and his first born son is a medical student while the second, a girl, is studying fine arts and his last daughter is in Grade One.

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