By Blessed Katiyo
He used to light up television screens in the early 80s into the 90s as chief dancer for John Chibadura’s Tembo Brothers. He was a much-loved character at live shows and had followers of his own.
Chibadura’s rise to fame was partly due to the crowd-pulling abilities of this man.
Sadly, he now survives on the generosity of the Thohoyandou community in Limpopo who throw coins at him as he dances in the streets to earn a living.
He is a far cry from the man who toured Europe and the African continent at the pinnacle of his career.
Bata “Manyowa” Sintirawo is in a sorry state.
This reporter bumped into him at a fast food outlet on Saturday night during the Royal Heritage Festival in Venda. He said his name was Smeya White and he comes from Mozambique.
He was speaking in English and when he realised he had been unmasked he confirmed indeed he was Manyowa.
“Ah mwana wekumusha wandiziva sei? Ndakazvarirwa kuTanzania ndikazokurira kuZimbabwe,” he said with some sense of shock and disbelief. He was putting on an old pair of dirty jeans whose zipper was non-functional. He had a discoloured checked shirt with some buttons missing and seemed not to have been washed in days, if not weeks. He wore a pair of oversized “safety shoes” but he didn’t looked bothered. He reeked of alcohol.
“Ndichiri kutamba zvandaingoita kudhara. Mese muno muVenda vanondiziva, dai wafamba neni masikati waona,” he said as he waved to one Indian man who was in the queue to buy food. He then did an unannounced sample of the late Michael Jackson’s moonwalk dance, much to the surprise and joy of customers in the KFC outlet.
“Ndini ndakatanga ne break dance. Mazuva ano ndaakurova dzese manje. Fanike house ndiyo yandiri number one. Ana gwara gwara ndotamba zvekuti,” he remains defiant despite his greying hair.
“Ndakamboda kuita zvemusic but haa zvinonetsa. Ndakamboshanda naJonah Moyo arimowo muno muThohoyandou maari kutengesa maCD. NaMitchell Jambo futi ndaimboshanda naye,” he volunteered information regarding his old mates in the music industry who are also based in the same town.
“I know this old man he is a very good dancer. He dances everywhere anytime and people just give him whatever money they have. He normally dances in the streets,” said the Indian man named Yusuf.
Manyowa indicated he has been living in South Africa since 2004, almost 5 years after the death of Chibadura. Some sources revealed he once worked as a gardener at a braaing place in Thohoyandou where he would double up as an entertainer as well. He indicated he is not going anywhere anytime soon as he is “living well”.
Despite his rugged look one can’t help but appreciate the passion and burning flame that is still within the heart of this ageing man. After a few selfies he then asked me for my mobile number which he immediately buzzed from his “mbudzi” phone. We then parted ways.
It may be a cry for help to revive the fortunes of this legendary dancer. H Metro