Cleaner turned author on mission to get youths reading in home languages

Rise Vukani Management Services publishes isiNdebele novel called Ngoneni.
Rise Vukani Management Services publishes isiNdebele novel called Ngoneni.
Image: Supplied.

A new isiNdebele novel has made headlines – written by Siphetheni Ncube, who works as a cleaner for Selimathunzi presenter and actor Siphesihle Vazi.

Based on Ncube’s life, the book contains two short stories on hardship, heartbreak and resilience.

Hailing from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, she has been writing since the age of 12, something she started doing as a hobby. “I just never stopped writing. I would buy a book, write until it was full and buy another one. I had a large pile,” she said.

She then began to forge relationships in the publishing industry on a Facebook page where she was offered help to publish the first few copies of her book.

“It was a dream come true. I just sat and cried,” Ncube says about the first time she held a copy of the book.

IsiNdebele is no longer a widely spoken language in Zimbabwe, a dilemma that has left Ncube frustrated as more and more youths are not able to perform well academically in the language. This has inspired her to help more schools cultivate a reading culture and develop pupils’ love for isiNdebele literature.

It was her passion for culture that inspired Vazi, who then helped republish the book through his company, Rise Vukani Management Services. He had already promoted the first copies on his social media pages to allow Ncube to reach larger audiences.

“I then decided, let me take my time – with her permission of course – and let’s redo the whole thing. Let’s make sure it’s up to scratch, that it’s readable and that it is in the correct format,” says Vazi.

In terms of marketing, Vazi knew there were many ways to market a product, but for this manuscript, he had to follow a specific route.

“You have to do book fairs, you attend other authors’ launches, and that way you sell yourself as an author,” Vazi says. This became a great way for Ncube to meet other people in the publishing industry, who helped them get the book to even larger markets.

“Find your industry and know how their marketing tools work,” says Vazi. “With her [Ncube], she had an experienced mentor who was with her every step of the way in terms of the look and feel and where to place the book. She had me as a media personality who was able to utilise my networks, my contacts and my name.”

Vazi hopes the book can be translated and scripted into a play and a movie, a goal he personally wants to see fulfilled.

Ncube’s advice is that no one should give up on their dreams, no matter their circumstances.

She lost her mother when she was seven years old and her grandmother shortly after, and Ncube had no one to turn to in times of need.

“I couldn’t go to my mother’s grave and tell her to wake up because I needed money for school, but I knew I had a dream to become a doctor and I never gave up. Although I never got to make that come true, I carried on and made sure I could accomplish my second dream, which was to be a writer. Now I have accomplished that.

“No matter what hardships you face, you must never give up. Do what you can to make your dreams come true.”

Ngoneni is available at Bridge Books in Johannesburg and Maboneng. You can visit its website to find out more at www.bridgebooks.co.za.

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