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Meet Makanaka Mavengere . . . screenwriter behind DiepCity, eHostella, The Black Door

IT is never easy to leave that one thing that you love and trade it for something else.

It takes guts and unbridled determination as success is not guaranteed.

There are hurdles to overcome.

Sometimes it takes a simple text message like, “Makanaka, I am still waiting for the book.”

From balancing books for 14 years to penning legendary scripts is the life of larger-than-life Zimbabwean, Makanaka Mavengere.

She has grown from walking the streets of Harare to conquering the busy streets of Johannesburg.

Mavengere in 2016 decided to honour her passion for creative arts after devoting 14 years of her life working in accounts.

Her passion in arts is now focused on stage directing, sound effects and lighting which in simple terms is screenwriting.

This, she has done for the crème de la crème productions in South Africa which include SABC 3’s Real Talk with Anele, e.tv’s The Black Door, Mzansi Magic’s DiepCity and eHostella series season one and two; and series Meet Melusi that is on Showmax, among many other productions.

Showbiz Reporter, Mthabisi Tshuma (MT) caught up with Makanaka Mavengere (MM) who explained how she joined the creative industry.

MT: Tell us about yourself.

MM: My name is Makanaka Mavengere.

I’m the fourth of five children and was born and raised in Harare.

I have an Accounting Degree from Solusi University and worked in the accounting field for over a decade before I decided to make a complete turnaround and follow my passion for writing in 2015/16.

MT: Can you share details of your journey as a writer?

MM: I knew from the time I was a kid that I wanted to write books but I ended up in finance.

Despite working for amazing blue-chip companies and being good at what I was doing, I always felt something was missing in my life.

I moved from company to company hoping to find the missing piece.

What prompted me to write was a friend of mine who, in 2010, sent me a message saying: “Makanaka, I am still waiting for the book.”

It then prompted me to say: “You know what? I forgot about this dream that I had to write this book.”

That’s when I decided to start writing on a freelance basis and later realised that writing and telling stories was what I truly loved.

In 2016 I took a leap of faith and well, the rest is history.

It has not been an easy or glamorous journey but the experience is totally fulfilling.

MT: What/who inspired you to be a film practitioner?

MM: I was always a great storyteller.

After publishing Perfect Imperfections, in August 2019 under Black Bird Books, I landed a job as a scriptwriter and researcher on one of the biggest talk shows in South Africa, Real Talk with Anele (SABC 3).

It was from there that I made connections that led me to where I am today.

MT: What have been your highlights in the industry?

MM: It’s a very rewarding industry when you get to see your work on screen.

MT: What are some of the challenges that you have faced?

MM: My biggest challenge was always trying to prove my worth and get a seat at the table in an industry to which I had no training.

MT: Can you describe your style and subject matter in your productions?

MM: I always want to tell authentic stories that people can relate to so that audiences can see their lives playing on-screen and feel included.

MT: Name the productions you have screen written?

MM: Meet Melusi (Showmax); Loving Thokoza (Showmax), Boxing Day (Showmax), DiepCity Season 1 and 2 (Mzansi Magic), The Black Door Season 1 (e.tv), Side Dish Season 2 (SABC 1), Kwa Vilakazi (Mzansi Bioskop), Ubizo Lakhe (Mzansi Bioskop); Vula Vala (Mzansi Magic), eHostella (Mzansi Magic) and Real Talk with Anele (SABC 3)

MT: Have you received any accolades?

MM: Unfortunately not but I am a big deal on my blog (chuckles).

MT: Any advice you want to give to up-and-coming filmmakers who want to venture into the industry.

MM: They should read scripts, watch TV and continue pushing no matter how many rejections they get.

They should write as well.

MT: How do you view the Zimbabwean film industry compared to the South African industry?

MM: The Zimbabwean film industry has a long way to go.

We need to stop trying to tell other people’s stories and tell our own authentic stories that the locals can relate to.

These kinds of productions will be bigger and we need to be confident enough to own these narratives.

We must produce films in our local languages because as long as we do not own our stories and honour our language and culture, no one else will.

This is what I feel South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana have done.

MT: What needs to be done for the local film industry to grow?

MM: More needs to be invested in the arts sector so that actors, musicians and those in the background do not have to be financially distressed.

If this is done right and people are paid their dues, they will be able to hone and perfect their crafts and give it 100 percent because they will be full-time in their field.

There should be more workshops and artistes must be open to collaborations.

Like I said before, as storytellers, we must own our stories and tell them well to gain the confidence of our people because once we get the buy-in locally, the world will buy into our stories too.

MT: When did you leave Zimbabwe for South Africa?

MM: I left Zimbabwe in 2004 and stayed in Zambia for two years then moved to SA in 2007.

I’ve been here since.

My parents and young brother are in Harare and I visit when I can.

MT: When last were you in Zimbabwe?

MM: Last year in August for my brother’s lobola.

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