Marechera was born in Vhengere Township, Rusape, Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) to Isaac Marechera, a mortuary attendant, and Masvotwa Venenzia Marechera, a maid.
In his novella, The House of Hunger (1978), and interviews, Marechera often falsely suggests that his father was either run over by "a 20th century train" or "came home with a knife sticking from his back" or "was found in the hospital mortuary with his body riddled with bullets". Such incorrect accounts may be part of Marechera's penchant to revise even the "facts" of his own life. German researcher, Flora-Veit Wild seems to give too much weight to an account given by Marechera's older brother, Michael about the destructive element in the younger Marechera's life. Michael suggests that Dambudzo was a victim of their mother's muti, implying that he was cursed in some way. Interestingly, when Marechera returned from London and was made writer-in-residency at the University of Zimbabwe, his mother and sisters attempted to come and meet him but he rejected them offhand, accusing the mother of trying to kill him. Still, it is known that Marechera never even made an effort to meet with any member of his family until he died in 1987.
He grew up amid racial discrimination, poverty, and violence. He attended St. Augustine's Mission, Penhalonga, where he clashed with his teachers over the colonial teaching syllabus, the University of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe), from which he was expelled during student unrest, and New College, Oxford, where his unsociable behaviour and academic dereliction led to another expulsion.
In his short career he published a book of stories, two novels (one posthumously), a book of plays, prose, and poetry, and a collection of poetry (also posthumous).