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Mtukudzi tried to avoid Zanu-PF

by Staff reporter
12 Feb 2024 at 13:51hrs | Views
AT the turn of the millennium, Zimbabwe's government introduced what it called "galas", where top musicians performed at different national events to mark important events in the country's history.

These events were notoriously partisan in favour of the ruling elite against a growing wave of countrywide resistance to the government of president Robert Mugabe's and the ruling Zanu-PF.

The ruling mandarins turned the otherwise well-attended concerts into party events such that musicians — for a good fee then — had to toe the party line for them to get paid. In doing this, the artistes knew they were going against the grain during Zimbabwe's harshest economic and political challenges when Zanu-PF had become detested nationwide and facing its sternest ever stranglehold on power following the formation of the hugely popular opposition MDC led by pro-democracy icon Morgan Tsvangirai.

Ethics — however — mattered little to the poor artistes who, like most of their countrymen — were hopeless, broken and downtrodden.

But not Oliver Mtukudzi, an internationally acclaimed musician whose reputation earned him the right to be independent and to choose a side of his choice without caring about freebies. But he, too, couldn't be seen to be on the other side!

Such was the polarised environment in this country that Mtukudzi, arguably Zimbabwe's greatest musician of all time, chose to sit on the fence lest he be ascribed a political side against his will.

Tuku rarely performed at the music galas and, when he did, it was consequential.

But how was the country's finest musician able to dodge these gigs when all and sundry was taking part and cashing in?

Tuku, ever the diplomat, had a way of staying away without being politically branded.

Even Sam Mataure, his manager at that time, knew how to evade the organisers of these controversial shows.

Mataure says the great Mtukudzi made it a point to unwillingly perform at these gigs once or twice a year, after a lot of "convincing and nudging". He simply wasn't interested!

"Half the time I would make sure we had gigs outside the country which coincided with the galas," Mataure told The NewsHawks this week.

"I would contact my travelling agent and line up a series of shows outside the country. By the time we came back, we knew there weren't any galas! But, of course, there was a lot of demand for Tuku to perform at the galas."

But Mtukudzi, as much as he liked to stay politically neutral, at some point faced difficult choices, especially when it came to his links to powerful political figures he could not wish away.

One of these was the Zanu-PF stalwart and Cabinet minister Saviour Kasukuwere, a Mugabe loyalist who hails from Mtukudzi's rural area of Mt Darwin. Kasukuwere, nicknamed Tyson, was a distant relative of Mtukudzi, and the one chap the music superstar could hardly say no to.

So on this particular occasion, when Kasukuwere was organising a so-called One-Million-Man-March in solidarity with Mugabe, Mtukudzi faced one of the most difficult decisions of his career.

"After discovering that it was a Zanu-PF gala, Tuku asked me to find a way to make sure we wouldn't perform, but it was too late," Mataure revealed.

"So, we went and performed, but luck ran out as ZBC-TV recorded the show, took shots of the band and the Zanu-PF heavyweights dancing and having a good time. At the same time we had a show in the UK the following weekend where (famous Zimbabwean broadcaster) Ezra 'Tshisa' Sibanda was part of the organisers.

"Ezra called me saying a boycott was being organised in the UK because we had performed at a Zanu-PF function. That gig (in the UK) we were performing alongside Alick Macheso so it was no ordinary show. There was heavy backlash on social media such that organisers panicked. Much to our amusement, when we got to the UK the venue was packed and Ezra then took the mic and joked with the crowd saying 'mauya wani asi manga muchida ku boycotter (you guys came anyway, but you had threatened to boycott!'."

The other time when Mtukudzi performed at a Zanu-PF-related event was through a former military officer and organiser within the ministry of Information, Major Anywhere Mutambudzi.

"Major Mutambudzi said he wanted Tuku at the gala and he said they would pay handsomely," Mataure said.

"I was caught unaware. I had my laptop, so I quickly drafted a contract and gave them a flush to make printouts. We then signed the contracts there and then and, next thing, Tuku performed at the gala."

Source - newshawks