Jabulani Mzinyathi was born in 1965 in Ascot, Gweru, Zimbabwe. He calls himself a poet-prophet-philosopher. His pan-African ideals and the teachings of Rastafari greatly inspire him. He is also driven by an immense sense of justice.
His works have been published in numerous magazines in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. You may read his works at http://jabulanimzinyathi.blogspot.com.
Five Questions with Jabulani Mzinyathi:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry since I was about thirteen years old, if not earlier.
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most inspired and informed your work?
The list of my favourite poets is not exhaustive but I deeply respect Dambudzo Marechera, Chenjerai Hove, Dr. Edson Zvobgo, Dennis Brutus, Lebo Mashile, Benjamin Zephaniah, Mutabaruka, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Frank Chipasula, and Jack Mapanje.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
My poetry is part of the bigger struggle for African emancipation. I consciously seek to propagate the spirit of pan-Africanism. I also seek to propagate internationalist ideals. I view myself as a citizen of the world but what hurts me deeply is the petty divisions that are based on the colour of a man's skin.
My poetry is meant to be an exercise in exorcism - there are evil spirits to be exorcised. These manifest themselves in tribalism or racism, in misrule and all forms of discrimination.
My poetry is about pride. My poetry seeks to spread the message that we black people are not inferior at all. I seek to remind fellow blacks to stand up and be counted. "None but ourselves can free our minds."
4. It's interesting that your listing of powerful African political figures and events begins with calls to Mutabaruka and Peter Tosh, Jamaican-born musicians. What does this say about the roll of these artists, and Rastafarianism in general, in African history and politics?
Rastafarianism is a powerful force that raises the consciousness of Africans in general. It is a struggle for emancipation. It is a constant reminder of what has happened to the black race. The worst crime against humanity per my view is slavery, and the beneficiaries of this crime have not wholly acknowledged this!
Reggae music, which is an integral part of Rastafarianism, condemns injustices. It spreads the message of love and black man's redemption. Rastafarianism provides an important link connecting Africans in the diaspora and those at home. Rastafarians have supported the revolutionary struggles on the continent. Listen to the lyrics of Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and others too numerous to mention here.
5. How do you think Africa can move closer to "dismantl[ing] its borders" like Europe? How, for instance, do you think that the African community should be responding to the current struggles in your home country?
Our present crop of leaders has surprisingly not moved fast enough to realise the ideals of a great son of Africa, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Africa is one. The partitioning of Africa was done at the looters' conference in Berlin in 1884. Black people were not consulted and African states of old were destroyed at the stroke of a pen. Social,cultural,economic and political links were severed. Divisions were sowed.
Africa should go on and strengthen the African Union. That body has not reached its full potential because of silly perceptions that some Africans are anglophone, some are francophone, etc. These are all divide and rule tactics. It baffles me that our leaders have tenaciously held on to colonial boundaries. It is a shame!
The African Union should play a very important role in solving the challenges in my home country. Africa should make a clear analysis of the challenges that we face and should have mechanisms to bring solutions that are legally binding. The time for blind praise singing should be a thing of the past. Africa should be at the forefront telling our leaders that their personal interests are subordinate to the will of the people!