Relocating from Motherwell to the Mother City may not be a walk in the park, but it sure is a step in the right direction. Even a herd-boy has to emulate his cows at some point in life and go seek for greener pastures. Zimkhitha embarked on a journey to Cape Town in search of her talent and calling, not knowing she had it all in her palm all along.
Zimkhitha Mlanzeli found her calling when she worked at FunDza Literacy Trust as an author and an editor. She mentored young aspirant writers in a bid to give back to the reading community that made her. Just like her writing, Zimkhitha has gone through rough stages in her life that polished and nurtured her. “I studied Electrical Engineering at NMMU but dropped out because I had no love for it. Later I worked as a sales rep and that landed me in Johannesburg where I lived for two years, but I longed for a better life,” says Zimkhitha.
Zimkhitha’s rich imagination means that she can escape into the world of fiction when reality is harsh. She had to watch her mother struggle to raise five children and two grandchildren single-handedly. “She’s the pillar of my strength, she’s one person that makes me strive to do better every day. I shall make her a proud mother one day,” she says. Seemingly her craft is not the only thing that she treats with love and tender care, she once served as a nanny in her sister’s crèche.
Zimkhitha proves that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to reach your destiny, what matters is your desire and determination to get there, “As long as your heart still beats and that desire still burns, there’s still hope for that dream you keep putting off. It’s never too late. I mean look at me, I only got started at 30.”
Even from an early age young Zimkhitha kept a diary and wrote short stories. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that children always loved her stories and good command of English, her childhood friends gave her pet names for that, “They called me coconut & cheese girl. They couldn’t understand how a township girl could speak fluent English.”
It is often said that people who are too weak to follow their dreams will always find a way to discourage yours, but you can build steps from the stones they throw at you. “I had to kill all the stereotypes that were associated with going to a public school. I drew my courage from their negative remarks.”
Zimkhitha currently stays in Mfuleni and says the biggest challenges in the community are alcohol abuse and lack of motivation. She believes that reading can cure a great deal of the illness that is spreading in her community. “Talent is there but there’s lack of resources. If you want to take children off the street then give them something to them keep busy,” she says.
She also blames parents for giving their children too much money and not enough guidance. This is where FunDza comes in as they have a beneficiary programme that donates exciting teen books in the Harmony High series to under-resourced schools and reading groups. FunDza also has a mobi site available on Moya and on the web, where students can publish their work and read stories and novels. Zimkhitha edited the ‘FunDza Fanz’ stories that come in before they are published, and gave the young writers guidance with their writing.
People often say don’t let anyone hold the pen when you’re writing the story of your life, never let the obstacles you face in life decide your fate. Zimkhitha’s story took a turn for the better under the FunDza stable, she now has a novel to her name titled Blood Ties, one of a series of fiction teen novels called the Harmony High Series. Even though she has left FunDza, she is still part of the family and does freelance work for them too.
For a diamond to shine it goes through a thorough process of being polished. “If there’s still breath left in you then you can still achieve whatever you want to,” she advises the youth.
Tell us what you think: What challenges do you face in your community?