Zakes Mda: Biography & Books

Instructor: Natarielle Powell
From banking to writing, from studying in Switzerland to film producing, Zakes Mda has done it all, and had three marriages, too! Read further to find out more about this author.

Zakes Mda

What Kind of Name is Zakes?

You don't hear of many names that start with the letter Z. And when you do, the names are pretty basic. However, this author's name is rather unique. Actually, Zakes (Zah-kess) is not this author's real name. He was born with a much longer name that he shortened when he was in high school. Okay, take a deep breath: his real name is Zanemvula (Zah-name-voo-lah) Kizito (Kee-zee-toe) Gatyeni (Got-yay-nee) Mda (Mmm-dah). Try saying that three times fast!

Early Life

Zakes Mda was born in 1948 in Herschel, South Africa. His mother's name was Rose, and his father's name was Ashbey. His father was first a school teacher, then a lawyer, and later the founder and president of the African National Congress Youth League.

Exiled at a Young Age

Can you imagine being a teenager and growing up in a great town, making cool friends, and then having to leave it all? This happened to Zakes. His father was being exiled (made to leave the place where you live and not being allowed to return) to neighboring Lesotho in the early 1960s because he was a part of a plan to fight against apartheid (a-par-tide, meaning separation) in South Africa. Like many teenage boys, he preferred to live with his dad, even if it meant leaving his mom, friends, and his comfortable life. Zakes even had to learn a new language!

Zakes' High School Experience

Zakes began writing short stories when he was in high school. When he was 17 years old, he became interested in politics, and he joined the Pan Africanist Congress. He did not stay with this organization long. Zakes did not agree with some of the things the group did and wanted him to do.

Choosing a Career

Many high school students decide to go straight to college after they graduate. Others choose to begin working first. Zakes was in the second group, and he had multiple jobs like his father. Right after high school, Zakes became a teacher at a high school in the country. Then he started working as a bank clerk. He stayed at that job for two years and then started his own business. It was a sales promotions and marketing agency. While he ran the his business, he also studied law. After working at a law firm later, he realized that none of his jobs satisfied him the way writing did. So, he left all of his former jobs to pursue a career in writing.

Multiple Marriages

I guess that Zakes really believed in the old saying, If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. He has been married three times so far. He had three children with his first wife and two with his second wife. He married his third in 2006.

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