Charles William Dambudzo Marechera was born Tambudzai Marechera on June 4, 1952, in Vhengere Township, Rusape, Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia) to the family of a mortuary attendant Isaac Marechera and a maid Masvotwa Venenzia Marechera. He was baptized Charles William Marechera. He grew up in Vhengere Township when Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia, one of the last holdouts of white colonial rule on the African continent. The third of nine children, his original birth name, “Tambudzai,” meant “the one who brings trouble.” Trouble came to the family in other forms, however: when he was 13, his father was struck by a car and killed, which plunged the household into poverty. The first book Marechera ever owned was a children’s encyclopedia from the Victorian era that he had discovered in the town garbage dump. They were evicted and lived in a squatters’ settlement for a time, and Marechera’s mother was forced to support the children by working as a prostitute. Such traumas caused Marechera to develop a stutter, which made him the target of schoolyard taunts.
From 1965 on Rhodesia was under an official state of emergency, and violence was common as black nationalists battled with a racist white government to gain some measure of political representation. The troubled atmosphere brought further unease to Marechera’s life. Though he was a solid student, he began to suffer from hallucinations and a marked paranoia.