8 March 2018

Zimbabwe: Banking Scandal That Shook Peter Tangwena

In the early 2000s, Peter Tangwena became the face of flamboyance in local showbiz. He would go to shows with a convoy of latest posh vehicles of that time. Many musicians wondered how he did it. Even his followers were not sure about the source of his "wealth". Everyone knew that Tangwena was a musician of style and he was doing it the real rhumba way after the likes of Congolese star Koffi Olomide.

Even his Starlight Musica group's outfits were fancy and he transformed from a poor Warren Park music vendor to celebrity of status overnight.

It seemed like real panache, but it was a mirage. As he went down memory lane on Tuesday at Mereki Shopping Centre where he sells CDS, Tangwena admitted that his sponsors gave him an imaginary status.

He has nothing to show for the flamboyance because everything crumbled overnight. The mist cleared too early, exposing reality when he least expected it. He did not get what he had been promised and went down in the proverbial hero to zero fall. It must have been a heavy thud.

Tangwena revealed his links to famous young flamboyant businessmen that stole the limelight with a banking scandal in the early 2000s.

He did not want any names mentioned but revealed that a young men who worked with the popular businessmen approached him with a sponsorship deal that he could not resist.

"They liked my music and one of their guys approached me at one of my shows. He invited me to their offices. When I got there I could feel like I was in another country. Umm the office was nice mukoma, it was nice. I knew I was in the right place and God had answered my prayers," Tangwena recalled.

"When I got in I was shown a trunk full of money. Panga pane mari mukoma, mari. They said they wanted to sponsor me and there was no way I could have second thoughts. I was actually wishing I had seen them earlier."

Tangwena said he was asked to say things that were on top of the list what he wanted in life and how they could work together. He told them that he wanted a house, car and music equipment.

The deal that was sealed outlined that they would organise Tangwena's shows for eight months after which he would get the three items on his list. He agreed because he could feel the heavens opening as he sat in the office.

"They would hire equipment for my band, buy outfits for us and pay my band members their weekly wages. I did not get anything because my payment would be in form of the house, car and equipment. I just got a few dollars to cover basics at home. I was excited and knew that my time had come.

"It was an exciting time and everyone admired me. They would come with latest vehicles to pick me up at home. There would be four or five posh cars accompanying me to the shows. I shiver when I recall this. I had never lived such a life."

Everything went well for Tangwena until hell broke loose at the eleventh hour. His benefactors were implicated in a banking scandal in the seventh month of the deal and his contact person skipped the border. Others disappeared. There was no one at the offices. Tangwena was stranded, heartbroken and clueless.

"For a moment I thought I had seriously wronged my ancestors. I could not believe it. It was just a month to go. Mwedzi here mukoma? I felt useless. I did not know what to tell my wife. It meant I had toiled for nothing in those seven months of flamboyance," he said tears welling up in his eyes.

Although he tried his best to rise from the dust after the collapse of his ambitions, Tangwena could not be the flamboyant and trendsetting rhumba singer anymore.

He continued to do shows with other musicians, but his confidence was drained because his counterparts always asked what had happened and he was always at pains to explain.

However, his music continued to excite people and he got shows from other promoters. He had to continue looking after his family, but the collapsed deal haunted him. It still haunts him.

He had to resort to his "normal" way of life that had seen him releasing several albums and remaining an average artiste who lived like most of his counterparts.

He had introduced himself on the local scene with his debut album "Pamuchato Celebration" that had many admirers because rhumba was at its peak in the country.

Other albums to his name are "Uyo Ndiani", "Mutinhimira WaPater", "Pamereki", "Uchandinetsa Pay" and "Siyana Newangu (Chipoko)".

Although he maintained some loyal rhumba followers over the years, the musician says the most successful period of his music was the time of the great sponsorship.

However, as the popularity of rhumba declined, Tangwena began losing even the small shows that were coming his way.

The only time that he managed to reclaim a bit of his lost fame was when he released a DVD of previous songs in 2007 that was popular on ZBCTV.

As the going got tough, he had no option but return to his music vending business at Mereki Shopping Centre. It is a business that he started in 1985 when he sold cassettes before deciding to be a singer.

He goes there everyday. It is now his sole source of income. He says the highest income he can get on a good day is about $15 while on other days he would be satisfied to get a few dollars for his family's food.

He rents a house in Warren Park D where he stays with his wife and two daughters. He is the bread winner of the family.

In addition to fending for the family in Warren Park, he has started building a small structure at a stand that he got through a programme that saw many musicians being awarded free land some years ago.

However, Tangwena cherishes his good days on stage and hopes that one day he will be back in studio. He says his team is ready and if any promoter invites him for a show, he is ready to go. He has gone for many years without holding a show or recording.

He smiles when he talks about how they toured the country and had memorable shows in various towns and cities. For a long time after he lost popularity, Tangwena was Macheso's supporting act.

He laughs when he recalls an incident in the Harare Gardens when they were performing the song "Chipoko" and their member who was dressed in fun outfit imitating a ghost jumped into the crowd.

"Ladies screamed. Even some men ran away. People were scattered. It was just a character, it was not a real ghost but some people feared the dressing.

"However, others later came back to dance with the 'ghost' and the crowd continued enjoying our music. We had exciting times indeed"

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