By Richmore Tera
“Television has helped me in many areas. The exposure it has given me, coupled with my academic qualifications, has worked well for me.” These are the words of talented actor Timothy Tapfumaneyi (44) acclaimed for his role as Timmy in the television and radio comedy “Timmy naBonzo” that was a hit in the early 1990s to early 2000s.
However, it has been nine years since he featured in any production owing to his professional commitments. This has prompted many people who meet him on the streets or still watch “Timmy naBonzo” on ZTV, to ask when he is going to “drop”’ another rib-cracker alongside his equally humourous sidekick, Lawrence “Bonzo” Simbarashe.
“Acting is good, it puts you in the right position if you know how to utilise fame. But the truth is that I have got other commitments in life. To me, acting is not full-time, since I am more into the insurance and finance sector,” said the affable Tapfumaneyi, a financial advisor with Old Mutual.
The actor — who last appeared in the 2003 television production “Chatsva” — urged artistes to have a profession to fall back on in the event that the arts fail to reward them.
“In life one should be innovative, and as an artiste you have to be very creative and come up with ways of making a living. You have to diversify and as a public figure you can easily market yourself and your fame is the key that opens doors of opportunity for you.
“In addition to your artistic talent, you have to attain the right qualifications, which is why I am working as a financial advisor for Old Mutual despite my acting background,” Tapfumaneyi, who is a professional librarian, said. No wonder he is a holder of a number of academic and professional qualifications.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies, a Certificate of Proficiency in Long-Term Insurance and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Studies. But Tapfumaneyi’s rise was as dramatic as the comedies he has starred in.
“I joined the ZBC in 1988 as a gardener before being promoted to messenger. My diligence and passion for success saw me becoming a programmes compiler for the then Radio 3, and before I knew it I was again elevated to the position of library supervisor, also for Radio 3,” he recalls.
By the time he left ZBC in December 2003 to pursue “greener pastures”, he was the manager of the archives and library services at the corporation.
The comedy “Timmy naBonzo” started as a radio drama in the early 1990s and Tapfumaneyi juggled his profession as a librarian with acting, a feat that thrust him into the limelight as one of Zimbabwe’s talented actors. However, radio listeners were only acquainted with his voice while they hungered to see the face behind it. It was at the behest of Dr Gideon Gono, who was one of the board members at the broadcasting corporation at the time, that the comedy was eventually adapted for television.
“We (Timmy and Bonzo) were invited to perform at a farewell party for some producers who were leaving the corporation. Dr Gono was impressed by our performance that he requested that ‘Timmy naBonzo’ be screened on television.
“Professor Jonathan Moyo also pushed for the production to appear on television, and that is how it ended up being a hit on ZTV,” said Tapfumaneyi in retrospect. But how was the experience of working with Simbarashe (Bonzo) on the production?
“He (Simbarashe) has vast knowledge in broadcasting in both radio and television. I learnt a lot from him, especially when it comes to how one should behave when on radio or TV.
“However, it is just unfortunate that he has fallen on hard times. We are trying by all means to assist him because we cannot let such good talent go to waste,” he said. Going back to his professional career, Tapfumaneyi — after leaving the ZBC in December 2003 — became a liaison officer with the National Social Security Authority for the Midlands region before leaving for Botswana in 2008.
He joined Coverlink Insurance Brokers where he worked as a broker for Metropolitan Life and Botswana Life Insurance for four years. But home sickness got the better of him and he returned to Zimbabwe last year to join Old Mutual, where he is today.
“By working, I am building my pension because I am formally employed while at the same time nothing can stop me from doing dramas. That is why it is important for artistes to have professional and academic qualifications because you don’t know where you might end up in life.
“You might end up being professors in your respective fields at the universities in the country,” said the born-again Christian, who is a member of Zaoga. He also urged fellow artistes not to allow fame to get into their heads.
“Don’t let fame get into your heads. It was through failure to handle fame that a good number of artistes faced premature deaths. Fame is good when you use it wisely to advance your social status, but it can be dangerous if you misuse it.
“I am now a born-again Christian and in the near future I will be working on Christian movies. The first of such movies will focus on my life because a lot has happened in my life that I feel can transform souls for the better,” said the father of three, who singled out Aaron Chiundura-Moyo as one of the artistes who inspired him.
He added: “The recent trend has revealed that many artistes are dying paupers after achieving nothing in life despite their fame. But with a good education and focus, you can make it in life and leave something for your family.”
Born on October 29, 1968 in Wedza, Tapfumaneyi started acting while he was still in Grade Six at Shiriyedenga Primary School in Glen Norah.