The curse of Zimbabwean celebrities
By Jean Gasho
I have always understood a celebrity to be a person whose talent has attained them some amount of fame and fortune especially when it comes to music. But it seems in Zimbabwe the word “celebrity” simply has another meaning altogether.
It looks like a celebrity in Zimbabwe is a celebrity on Facebook and Social media but in real life these “celebrities” are living a life which is a far cry from their online personas.
They are becoming more like a laughing stock to Zimbabwe and probably Africa. Every month there is some embarrassing viral story about Zimbabwe celebrities, that in all fairness you don’t see with other nations.
I can’t help but think that the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe has reduced the talented people of Zimbabwe into a laughing stock and probably beggars.
I’m not writing this article to laugh at these celebrities, but something is clearly amiss and is worth mentioning. In counties like Nigeria and Ghana or even South Africa, artists actually make money from music, ie Tiwa Savage, Don Jazzy, Sarkodie, R2Bees and many more.
They make millions from their music, and on top of that, they have proper celebrity status where they are respected and esteemed by their people. No way would you see a celebrity in Ghana or Nigeria being mercilessly beaten by a dirty street thug and the mob is cheering on the beating.
Urban grooves Zimbabwean musician Trevor Dongo is the latest artist from Zimbabwe to suffer a public humiliation that has exposed his weaker physical stature and his financial situation. Yesterday a video of him being mercilessly head butted and choked in the street went viral. What was rather disturbing about the video was that the people who were watching were laughing and encouraging the beating.
The guy beating Trevor Dongo was an unkempt thug wearing dirty clothes whom in normal circumstances should not be anywhere near someone who is regarded a “Zimbabwean celebrity”.
It’s like Justin Bieber being beaten mercilessly by a homeless thug. I mean, come on. I thought celebrities walk around with body guards to prevent these situations. What was Trevor even thinking getting into a fight with a person whom he’s supposed to be donating his change/money to?
When I thought it could not get any worse, the reason for the fight was more shocking than the actual fight. Trevor said in a statement that the guy had grabbed his “tomatoes” or “food” or something. The fight was about food. Tomatoes to be precise?
Trevor could not let the guy just have the food. He could not even walk away for his dignity’s sake. I can’t help but wonder maybe he fought for the food because he actually could not afford to buy himself some more groceries.
What does that tell us about the music industry of Zimbabwe. The “celebrities” are probably worse off than the average people. And that is truly sad, because these musicians are making music as hobbies to just entertain people but are getting nothing for it.
For a top musician to fight a thug for tomatoes, that is truly sad and embarrassing not just for Trevor, but for the whole country Zimbabwe.
Stunner (Desmond Chideme)
Only last week Zimbabwean rapper Stunner was making headlines after he was found guilty of a criminal offence which included driving without a licence and reckless driving. These charges came after Stunner was involved in a fatal car accident in his brand new Lexus that injured two pedestrians and damaged cars and properties.
This is a man who has made such a reputation on social media boasting about how rich he is, sleeping in chinchilla blankets and how he is making money through his music. I remember about two weeks ago he was trending on Facebook after he made fun of single mothers (despite being married to one).
Soon after that he recorded a live video in which he openly mocked poor people and those struggling in the diaspora saying he was ready to give them jobs as care assistants. He went on to boast that he has already made money from his latest album because he already sold it to some company explaining why his album was free.
He was obviously lying about this, no company bought his album, and even if it was bought, he would still not be giving it out for free. After all the bragging on social media, the real
Stunner revealed himself in court when he begged for mercy at the hands of the magistrate. He said he doesn’t make any money from music and life was indeed very difficult for him financially. The car which he had the accident in had been bought on higher purchase. How sad is that.
Singer Nox Guni has been trending on social media over the past few months. Every month nude pictures of him in disgraceful sleeping positions in run down houses and hotels are being leaked online.
Allegedly this is involving a love gone bad conflict with an Amai Gamu aka Amai Guru according to her Facebook page, who all along was masquerading as Nox’s publicity officer yet she was his girlfriend.
The singer is alleged to have been using the older Amai Gamu as his source of money, despite portraying a successful music career on social media. I can believe this because the pictures of the rooms Nox is pictured in are a far cry from the flamboyant celebrity he appears to be on social media.
Another Zimbabwe celebrity Jah Prayzah made headlines in the last few weeks after he was unable to pay one of his employees their salary, as well as allegations of sexual harassment.
I could go on and on about the scandals of Zimbabwean celebrities living a high life on Facebook when the reality is a different story. I could also go on about celebrities in Zimbabwe indulging is disgraceful behavior which makes them laughing stocks on social media. Is this because of the political situation and the poverty in Zimbabwe? It looks like the celebrities are not immune to the Zimbabwe situation.
Only a few months ago Lady Squanda mercilessly beat up comedian Skimbo and made him lick her foot. She went on to record the abuse on video. What on earth would cause a woman who is supposed to be a celebrity to resort to such behavior.
Is it not the frustration of the industry itself? In fact the real reason Lady Squanda assaulted Skimbo was because she had been accused of stealing underwear from a lodge, that just about says it all.
At the beginning of the year another female celebrity former actress Tinopona Katsande suffered a public humiliation after she split up with her husband/boyfriend Virimai Chigariro. He then went to the press and exposed the poverty Tinopona was living in, despite the contrast she had tried to portray on social media. It then came to public attention that Tinopona was living in a rented one room house despite being a “successful celebrity” who is constantly featured in the tabloids.
I will conclude with the two music legends of Zimbabwe, Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi. The political situation of Zimbabwe led Thomas Mapfumo to flee Zimbabwe and seek aslymn in the USA, which has affected his music career. It was very sad to see Thomas Mapfumo among the other 8 people who were protesting against Mugabe at the UN Headquarters in New York last month organised by Evan Mawarire.
There was nothing wrong with the protest itself, but it was sad to watch because of how unsuccessful it was. I could not believe the videos I was watching that it was actually the great Thomas Mapfumo. This is a man I grew up listening to in the background. His music was everywhere.
He was a household name. But to see him now in exile in USA looking lost and participating in a demonstration that was such a flop was sad. He could not even pull the 100 people to the demonstrations against Mugabe. This is a man who is supposed to be honored considering his music contribution to Zimbabwe and Africa, but there he was standing in the streets of New York, with no one even noticing him or acknowledging the legend he once was.
As for Oliver Mtukudzi, he is one of the best musicians Zimbabwe has ever had. Like Thomas Mapfumo one would assume these two men are multi millionaires. I remember a few years ago when Mtukudzi purchased a Land Rover Discovery. I remember the headlines “Oliver Mtukudzi shows off new wheels”.
There were pictures of the car everywhere, even fans surrounding the car taking pictures. However only last month, Mtukudzi was being sued by a car dealer over failure to pay the monthly installments of the car.
The local car dealer Premier Auto Services took him to High Court seeking to recover over $43 000 for a Land Rover Discovery 3 vehicle he bought some time ago. So if a Zimbabwean superstar like Oliver Mtukudzi can not afford to buy a Land Rover Discovery, what hope is there for artists like Stunner, Trevor Dongo and Lady Squanda. Does Zimbabwe even have millionaire celebrities at all? I am talking of people who have made a fortune because of their talent in the music and entertainment industry.
I have learnt that the people of Zimbabwe love to brag about wealth and statuses on social media. Our celebrities are no different. In fact its worse for the celebrities because people expect them to be living the high life so they go out of their way to show the public that indeed their talent is paying them, when that is far from the reality.
Its truly sad how being a Zimbabwean celebrity in the music and entertainment industry is almost like a curse. I feel like the economic situation has made these “celebrities” vulnerable and a national laughing stock. Will anything good ever come out of Zimbabwe?
I am not talking about artists like Tinashe who may have a Zimbabwean name but are American, I mean real Zimbabweans. Other African countries are able to produce world class musicians who where born and raised in Africa. What about Zimbabwe? It does look like a nation cursed starting with the celebrities. Where are the blessings, talent and wealth of Zimbabwe?
The purpose of this article is to highlight a problem in hope for a solution. Its unfortunate to see Zimbabwean celebrities being a laughing stock on social media week after week. How will the world respect them if they are a butt of jokes in their own country.
In one of his videos, I recall Stunner mentioning that maybe Zim celebrities need to have some sort of committee or advisory board where they are represented and advised on how to conduct themselves in public. Something positive that Stunner has ever said.
Public relations is something these celebrities seriously lack. They may be suffering financially and economically due to the Zim situation but that is no excuse for barbaric behavior. They also need to be advised that they do not need to portray an online persona of something they are not just to please people as it always comes back to haunt them.
A solution needs to be reached as a matter of emergency for we can’t afford to have yet another celebrity next week being made into a laughing stock for the embarrassment of Zimbabwe.
You can visit Jean Gasho’s blog, Jean Gasho