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Petros – Zim’s First Xitsonga Novelist

By Titos Makondo

Petros Mapengo (40), an aspiring local writer, has risen from Chiredzi’s writing nest to become the nation’s first Xitsonga novelist. He finally embarked on writing a Xitsonga novel after a series of procrastination hurdles, triggered by a lack of foundation.

Born and raised in a bungalow-dotted village of Ponyoka in Chikombedzi, Chiredzi South, Petros Mapengo, a tutor at Malipati High School, has become the subject of local gossip with his groundbreaking achievement, which has garnered widespread acclaim from the Tsonga community scattered across Chiredzi and Mwenezi.

His achievement has brought a sense of relief to Xitsonga schools in Zimbabwe, which have been struggling to teach the language due to the scarcity of local literature. Consequently, many are calling for his recognition, likening him biblically to John the Baptist who heralded significant change.

Petros’ Educational Background

Petros began his educational journey at Chikombedzi Primary School from 1992 to 1998. He then pursued his secondary education at Alpha Mpapa High School until O Level (1999 to 2002) before transferring to Mhlanguleni High School for his A-Level studies (2003 to 2005).

Answering the call to the teaching profession, he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree at Great Zimbabwe University from 2007 to 2010. Subsequently, he started his career as an English and Religious Studies teacher at Malipati High School, later transitioning to teach Xichangana (Xitsonga) when it was introduced in 2014.

Petros’ Writing Journey

Petros’ passion for writing was ignited during his youth, inspired by radio dramas on Munghana Lonene FM. He dreamt of crafting novels in his mother tongue, Xitsonga. While attempting to create drafts during his A-Level studies, his early efforts ended up discarded due to his lack of directon. It was not until university, particularly when Xitsonga was introduced in 2008, that he found his footing.

However, faced with the dilemma of being in his second year at university, he postponed pursuing Xitsonga writing. His aspirations were revitalized through mentorship from pioneering Xitsonga students, which ultimately sparked the creation of his debut novel, titled Khombomuni.

About His Novel

Khombomuni marks the first Xitsonga novel in Zimbabwe, serving as a poignant narrative against issues such as domestic violence, early school dropouts, and child marriages. The story follows Khombomuni, the protagonist, depicted as the beloved daughter of Xihimi and Nwa-Hanyani. Although academically gifted, Khombomuni’s life takes a dark turn due to substance abuse and an ill-fated love affair.

Subsequently, Khombomuni becomes pregnant by Joyinani, who shirks responsibility, leading to a tragic event that alters the course of her life. Amidst challenging circumstances, Khombomuni decides to return to school for a second chance at a brighter future.

Petros’ Upcoming Work

Petros revealed to The Chiredzi Scrivener that the successful publication of Khombomuni is pivotal for his writing journey. He plans to release another book soon to contribute to the growing collection of local Xitsonga literature.

In addition to his novel, Petros has collaborated with Xitsonga tutors to create an Indigenous Knowledge Textbook, slated for release in the near future. He is also working on an A-Level textbook focusing on Critical Appreciation to enhance educational resources.

Encouraging Xitsonga learners to embrace writing and cherish their mother tongue, Petros emphasized the significance of local literary contributions:

“We have a limited number of literary works from local authors. Therefore, I urge Xitsonga learners to take the lead in writing novels, poetry, and stories in Xitsonga to enrich the literature in our local language,” expressed Petros.

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