Saturday, 14 February 2009

Sarudzayi Chifamba-Barnes: Zimbabwean Entrepreneur

by Jonathan Masere

14th February 2009

When it comes to writing and publishing, Sarudzayi, whose interesting interview is shown here, is a trail blazer and her travails have paved a broad path for those of us who are following in her footsteps. I knew she had written a book, The Endless Trail for which she got a pittance but little did I know that she had previously written another one and saw not a single quid for her effort. It is from her experience that I quickly realized that the book business is a jungle in which the operative rule is eat-or-you-will-be-eaten or, as we would say it in Shona: kakara kununa hudya kamwe.

Unfortunately the publisher is always the gorged predator and the poor writer the helpless prey. Publishing is a very tough business. There is no room for sentimentalities. It is deeply disturbing that famous writers are living like paupers as publishers get rich. Once in a while, a writer strikes a rich seam of gold and does very well. Think of J. K. Rowling or Zimbabwe-born Alex McCall Smith. How many J. K. Rowlings are there in the world? I can safely say that Zimbabwe has a whole slough of writers like Alex. However, unlike said Ms Rowling and Smith, many will not get the recognition and the subsequent financial windfall befitting their effort.

Saru could have opted for the easy road of hawking her works to famous publishers but, I suspect, she decided to do it the hard way. With sheer will, she could have struck her own literary Comstoke Lode. Some of us are thankful she opted to take the tough road of starting her own publishing company, The Lions Press Limited. It was a tough gamble but for a tough and resolute Zimbabwean, she has fearlessly grabbed that bull by the horns. The responses have been very encouraging.

It is the story of the underdog boldly taking on the behemoth and doing well. Crooked publishers have been put on notice by Sarudzayi. It is comeuppance time and some of us will be on the side of the underdog. This one small step for this Daughter of the Soil of Zimbabwe is turning into one giant stride for the down-trodden writer.