The Herald (Harare)

4 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Musicians Sing the Blues

"Dudu Manhenga faces jail", read a headline in The Saturday Herald Lifestyle section of 13 October, 2012. The paper further reported that the 32-year-old diva had been hauled before the courts for allegedly running over and killing a pedestrian.

She also faces allegations of driving without a licence.

The case is still pending at the courts.

Hardly a week later, urban grooves artiste Taurai Mandebvu also had a brush with the law for driving without a licence.

But there is more trouble for the "Betterman" hitmaker after appearing before the courts on murder charges.

Mandebvu allegedly teamed up with family members to fatally assault a suspected housebreaker.

Only last month, flamboyant businessman-slash-musician Energy Mutodi, who runs a property development company, was reportedly facing arrest after allegedly swindling over 200 desperate home seekers out of US$200 000.

Mutodi denies the charge.

However, the three are not the only local musicians to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

In recent years, the media has been awash with reports of various musicians and other performing artistes who have been hauled before the courts to answer charges ranging from theft, fraud to rape.

Dendera music icon Simon Chimbetu (now late) has the dubious distinction of serving the longest prison sentence by an artiste in Zimbabwe.

Chopper was convicted of stealing a motor vehicle in June 1990.

Although the dendera king pleaded not guilty, he was nevertheless found guilty.

He was sentenced to a seven-year jail term, two of which were conditionally suspended for three years.

He did his time at Khami Prison in Bulawayo and was released in January 1995.

Despite his long incarceration, "Chopper" quickly reclaimed his spot as the undisputed king of dendera.

Immediately after his release, he shot to the top with "Pachipamwe" (Welcome Back).

This was to be followed by several blockbusters such as "Survival", "Lullaby", "African Panorama Chapters 1 & 2", "Mwana WeDangwe" and his swansong "10 Million Pounds Reward".

The late "Dr Love", Paul Matavire, also found himself on the wrong side of the law at about the same time as "Chopper".

Matavire and his co-accused Peter Mabvuwa took turns to rape a disabled woman from Chiwundura Communal Lands in October 1989.

Both pleaded not guilty to the charge but were convicted as charged by provincial magistrate Mr Lawrence Kamocha.

Mabvuwa, also a member of the Jairos Jiri Band, was convicted on two counts of rape and jailed for eight years.

Two years were, however, suspended conditionally for five years.

Matavire was released in August 1992 after serving 13 months, thanks to a presidential pardon brokered by then Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The 'Taurai Zvenyu" hitmaker celebrated his freedom with a song mischievously titled "Back From College" in which he chronicled his experiences behind bars.

What followed afterwards was a string of below average albums judging by the lofty standards Matavire had set for himself.

Perhaps reading the writing on the wall, the self-proclaimed "Dr Love" took a break from music in 1999.

He bounced back in 2003 with the help of "Amadhamara" hitmaker Freddy Gwala with "Zimbe Remoto".

This was followed by "Gonye Remari", which was a monumental flop.

It was obvious 13 months in the cooler had taken their toll on Matavire.

Mbira musician Edna Chizema aka Mbuya Madhuve joined the "Hall of Shame" in March 2006 when she was jailed for three years for swindling a Harare businesswoman of Z$200 million after masquerading as a traditional healer.

Chizema was slapped with a five-year prison term, but regional magistrate Mrs Sandra Nhau suspended two years on condition of good behaviour and that she paid Z$148 million in restitution to the complainant.

The magistrate described Chizema as a bogus traditional healer who had tarnished the image of the local music industry and n'angas by lying to the businesswoman that she possessed magical powers that could recover her stolen property.

The State also charged that Chizema was not a certified registered traditional healer in terms of the Traditional Medical Practitioners Act.

At the time of her death, she was working on an 11-track album titled "Kushushana Kwevasungwa KuChikurubi" based on her time in jail.

In August this year, gospel musician Amos Mahendere was found guilty of assaulting and pointing a firearm at a kombi driver. He was fined US$100 along with two accomplices on the first count.

On the second count of pointing a firearm, Chitungwiza magistrate Mrs Rumbidzai Mugwagwa slapped Mahendere with an eight-month jail term before suspending two months for five years on condition he does not commit a similar offence.

The remaining six months were set aside on condition he performed 210 hours unpaid work. He has since appealed against conviction and sentence to the High Court.

In another gun-related case, reggae chanter Mike "Mic Inity" Madamombe reportedly faces arrest after he failed to attend court in October last year.

Mic Inity is the complainant after he caused the arrest of a Harare Sports Club bouncer whom he accused of demanding US$1 000 from him to conceal to the Press allegations that he produced a gun during a scuffle with a bar attendant.

He did not attend the court session resulting in the State applying for a warrant of arrest.

Meanwhile, sungura music pacesetter Nicholas Zakaria, whose life has been relatively free of controversy, is facing a US$500 lawsuit for assaulting a police officer during a show at Mbizo Inn Nightclub.

Affectionately known by his fans as the "Senior Lecturer", Zakaria is being sued for slapping Detective Inspector Lawrence Machingura on November 5 after the latter, who was in civilian attire, intervened to restore order following a brawl.

Machingura is claiming US$300 to atone for the pain and suffering caused by the assault and the remainder, US$200, for the humiliation he suffered.

Also grabbing the headlines were pole dancers Beverly Sibanda and Zoey Sifelani. The two were picked up by police in late September after a local tabloid published semi-nude pictures of the raunchy dancers performing what appeared to be pornographic acts.

Bev and Zoey, as they are popularly known, were charged for allegedly violating Section 77 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act), and spent the night at the Harare Central Police Station.

Apparently, the arrest was a blessing in disguise for the duo, whose popularity soared thereafter. "Bev is fully booked for the whole of October and I am happy about it. It seems bad publicity is sometimes good publicity as promoters are jostling for the dance queen", gushed her manager Harpers Mapimhidze.

Bev went on to record a video in which she appears dancing to rock n' roll legend Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" to the delight of her jailers. The video went viral within hours of its posting on YouTube.

Little-known urban grooves artiste Fortune Mphinya aka Genius K is also in hot water after he allegedly masqueraded as "Freeman, the Dancehall Doctor" during a show in Centenary on December 1. The "Joina City" hitmaker was the star attraction, but did not turn up, prompting Genius K to jump on stage as Freeman.

"I did it because I knew the fans were going to cause a melee," he said in his defence. But the show promoter is not taking the matter lightly and has already filed a police report, on grounds that he was duped of US$250 in deposit fees.

This catalogue of errant performing artiste would not be complete without mentioning Orchestra Mberikwazvo "Prodigal Son" Peter Kagomera. The former streetkid-turned-dancer was expelled from the band after he was arrested for assaulting a police officer. For the offence, Kagomera was sentenced to eight months in prison, which was wholly suspended on condition he performs 630 hours of community service at Chitungwiza Magistrates' Court.

Peter - who was hired and subsequently fired by pole dancer Beverly Sibanda - is likely to be locked up after he absconded community service.

But local musicians are not alone when it comes to brushes with the long arm of the law.

American R&B superstar Chris Brown found himself on the wrong side of the law after he assaulted his on-and-off girlfriend, Robyn "Rihanna" Fenti, on the night of the Grammy Awards in 2009.

The US pop singer was subsequently sentenced to five years of probation and 180 days community labour.

Jamaica's reggae superstar Buju Banton, real name Mark Myrie, was late last year jailed after being found guilty of three cocaine-related charges following his arrest on December 10, 2009.

In March 2010, US artiste Lil Wayne was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon stemming from an incident in July 2007 and was sentenced to eight months. The rapper was originally facing as much as 15 years behind bars.

Nearer home, Koffi Olomide, one of Africa's most popular music exports, was in August last year slapped with a three-month suspended prison sentence for assaulting his producer over a US$3 680 debt.

Musicians are regarded as society's role models, who should lead squeaky clean lifestyles. Yet this is not always the case, begging the question: "If gold rusts, what then happens to silver?"

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