12 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Is He Macheso's Father?

AT a time when popular artiste Alick Macheso is riding at the crest wave of success in his music career, a 62-year-old Chipinge man of Malawian origin broke new ground this week, claiming to have fathered the iconic sungura guru.

For years now, Macheso the man remains an uncharted subject, in particular his parenthood, especially his father's whereabouts and identity, which has remained a subject of speculation to many of his followers.

Macheso was born on June 10, 1968, at Bindura Hospital - quite a distance away from the farm where his immigrant parents toiled on the land and in the kitchen as farm labourers, as claimed by the man who has decided to speak out, and claim to have sired the musician.

It is understood that the union between his parents was brief as the family intervened and broke up the marriage of young Emilia to a man widely referred to as Hudson Chisale from Malawi.

With his father out of the picture, young Alick is said to have been named Alick Silva-Macheso, his immigrant Mozambican mother's surname.

His supposed father's surname, Chisale, was erased from his history and life.

However, Tapi Phiri, who now works as a watchman at Ratelshoek Tea Estate compound in Chipinge, said he was dying to have a DNA test with the musician to prove that he was indeed the father of the man who has found fame and fortune in the local music industry.

Born April 10, 1950 in the Dowa area near Malawi's largest city of Lilongwe, Phiri, who is widely known as Achimwene in the compound, said his efforts to reunite with his son were being frustrated by the mother of Nicholas Zakaria's former protégé.

Phiri, who migrated from Malawi in the mid-60s and has some resemblance of the king of sungura, said he upon his arrival in Zimbabwe settled at a farm in Karoi where he toiled on the land while Macheso's mother, Emilia, worked in the kitchen.

Although it is widely believed that Macheso's father went back to Malawi after his failed marriage, Phiri claimed that he went to Harare from Karoi in search of greener pastures. He then moved to Birchenough Bridge before settling in Chipinge, but never returned to Malawi.

He insisted that the two (himself and Emilia) fell in love and sired Alick.

"I came from Malawi back in the mid-60s and settled at a farm in Karoi. I worked as a gardener, while Emilia worked in the kitchen. We were teenagers by then.

"I fell in love with Emilia in 1968 and Alick was the product. It is not true that I left her because of the interference from her relatives, but I needed to find a job that could give me more income in Harare.

"Yes, it was neglect on my part because I deserted the mother and the baby. We lost contact from then. It was only a few years ago when I heard that the mother was saying Alick's father was in Malawi and I said to myself that the world should know the truth.

"I later moved to Birchenough Bridge and then came here to Chipinge. I have never returned to Malawi since the mid-60s. I am prepared to have a DNA test done so that the truth is known by all," he said.

Phiri, who is now working as a watchman at the estate, insisted that he was not after the sungura musician's money, but would only want to meet his son and apologise for not being the father he was supposed to be.

He said his "son" also deserved to know his father.

Asked whether he has ever heard of the name Hudson Chisale which is widely touted as the identity of Macheso's father, he said: "I have heard a number of the names, but I can tell you that it will never change. He is my son. You are also aware of the fact that women are good at distorting information, even to the minors, whenever one does not want the kid(s) to reunite with their father.

"I have tried on a number of occasions to reach out to my son, but I am happy that iri iropa raa kudeedzera (the blood is calling). It is not going to be long before I meet him.

"I even went to the extent of enlisting the services of a Mozambican journalist known as Jongwe who works for Radio Comitari Chipungumbira (RCC), but again the mother could have none of it. She insists that Alick's father is in Malawi when I am out here, alive and kicking."

Interestingly, like the biblical woman who faced difficulties in getting Jesus' attention and was eventually healed by touching the hem of his garment, Phiri made numerous efforts to meet with his "son" whenever he had a show in Chipinge or nearby Espungabera, but he has never been given a chance.

"I have tried to reach out to him (Macheso), but have failed because of security and, of course, the fact that there are so many people surrounding him and have never given me a chance. Maybe some people might think that I am after his money, no. I only want him to know his father. That is all I want," he said.

However, Phiri, who is living alone at a two-roomed apartment in the tea estate compound, must have had difficulties in keeping his marriages intact given that he has already severed ties with the woman he married and sired two children with when he settled in Chipinge.

"We just could not click. We divorced after 12 years. We had two children together and they are both girls. To date, I am living alone and do not intend to get married anytime soon," he added.

A fellow worker at the estate, Joshua Fifteen, said the entire compound was aware of the rumour that Phiri was Macheso's father.

"We heard about it a number of years ago and everyone is aware of the rumour. This is not new to us. Most of us believed it because of the facial similarity between the two.

We have urged him to go to Harare and demand to meet his son or travel to Bindura to talk to the mother, but it seems he was reluctant and did not want people to believe that he is after Macheso's riches," he said. Repeated efforts to get a comment from Macheso were fruitless at the time of going to press.

However, early this week, a member of his band's management team only identified as Jethro pledged to hook up Macheso with our Mutare Bureau for an interview, but failed to get hold of the celebrated musician until this writer went to bed.

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