Jerry Zondo is a lecturer in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Zimbabwe. He lectures on Ndebele poetry, drama, oral literature, and philosophical thought, as well as the theory and practise of translation. He is also a protest poet but, interestingly, has only one published poem to his credit, ‘Awubuzanga Etsheni’ (You did not ask).
Zondo was born on 22nd April 1957 at Matopo Mission Hospital in Matabeleland South and was educated locally. He read for a BA General Degree in Ndebele/Zulu, English and Religious Studies from 1977-1979, and a BA Special Honours Degree in Ndebele/Zulu in 1980, which allowed him to join the University of Zimbabwe lecturing staff as junior lecturer in 1981. Zondo lectured in language and linguistics between 1981 and 1993.
Taking a break from academia, he then became Regional Director of the National Gallery in Bulawayo, before going back to teaching at the Dominican Convent in Bulawayo, Foundation High School, Mzingwane High School and the Gwanda Zintec and United College of Education all between 1996 and 2002. In 2003, he once again became a university lecturer, first at Masvingo State University and then, in 2006, at the University of Zimbabwe.
If Zondo’s interest in poetry developed during his teaching and lecturing activities, it began with his first encounters with Gudugwe Mlilo (LINK!) in the 1950s and 1960s in the Ntunjambili Communal area. Mlilo was a wandering poet of the old school.
Zondo argues that the general limitation of Ndebele poetry lies in its social accountability. In part he feels this is due to constraints imposed by publishers, and in part by self-censorship. Poets do not fully express their innermost feelings, their dissatisfaction with their environment, and their treatment by central authority – although the Ndebele have experienced more persecution than celebration, both before and after Zimbabwe’s independence.
In his analysis, Zondo sees a current need for more poetry that is relevant to the Ndebele experience; and less of the “acceptable patriotic” poetry. Zondo has sometimes used advocacy meetings as a platform for reading his poetry as a positive alternative to having it published. His poetry focuses on the everyday trials and tribulations of the Ndebele as they seek to gain more recognition for their language and culture within the nation-state of Zimbabwe.
Giya Mthwakazi, Longman Pvt. Ltd., Harare, 1989