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Hosiah Chipanga… in the mouth of madness or genius?

By Robert Mukondiwa

It has been an argument that has held for so long. Hosiah Chipanga must be a mad person.

Hosiah Chipanga with his son, Curtis Donemore Chipanga

Surely that heavy laden message that he delivers blow by blow with every passing breath in his music cannot be the musing of a sane man. Certainly not.

A walk down the corridors of his mind must be a haunting experience; like a foray in the mouth of madness-surely.

So after hearing of his new venture into the world of active politics, Saturday Herald Lifestyle decided to take the trip down the mountains of the eastern gem of Mutare, braving the equally insane cold of winter along with the bitter cold rains, to visit Hosiah Chipanga.

Pen in hand and with the scalpel of lay psychological inquisitiveness, the odyssey was to finally understand the real man behind the lyrics and philosophy of the musician, the poet and the man; Hosiah Chipanga.

“Yes, I intend to stand for Parliament as an independent candidate for Dangamvura-Chikanga constituency,” says the man calmly.

Hosiah Chipanga with fans

Hosiah, for all his firebrand music and episodes that seem to be energetic rantings, is a remarkably calm spirit who can even pass for an introvert.

And as far as he is concerned, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, (Zec), merely has to go through the motions and just decree that Hosiah Chipanga is the winning candidate no less — it is a foregone conclusion!

“The people have always seen me as their leader through the music. I have been an advocate of the philosophy that says we have to work for our community and help the poor and now I am just going the final mile, the final step and just put the words of my music into action and help the poor get out of poverty,” he says confidently.

And while others may giggle as he speaks, he is nonchalant and perfectly believes the time has come for him to serve people in his immediate community.

Perhaps he is onto something.“People are not stupid. You see this road we are driving along,” he asks rhetorically, “the graders (earthmovers) only came here recently, just last week to make this road a bit better. That is what these people do.

They come a minute before the elections and do one good deed before disappearing for the next five years after getting the vote. The people are wisened to that nonsense and will no longer have anything of it,” he declares.

With a naughty smile, he says he is a member of the community and lives amongst the poor of the constituency and hence they will rally behind him.

“They know me. I live with them and have encountered the same bad events they have encountered and I live the same poverty that they live in. I can best represent them as a parliamentarian. Perhaps when I am near the seat of Government I can best sell their story and pull my community out of poverty,” he says wearing yet another naughty smile.

His campaign line says it all; “I am here to finish poverty and not finish the poor!” when translated directly —coarsely.

The booted dancer

The campaign posters adorn the wall to his house in the suburb. Perhaps the location of the house says he is indeed a man destined for oversight and care over his community. Perched on the hillside he can almost literally see every homestead in “his” constituency from his gate. A bird’s eye view of the poor community he has.

Yet he delves in a dark mysticism that usually has people questioning his cerebral functions.

“I saw this in the spirit on September 13, 1979, when I had returned from the war. I went to the war and was immediately arrested at gunpoint and held until the demobilisation exercise before independence.

I saw the spiritual realm and it had me putting together a garment made of black and white material. Before then I always used to think these were dark colours of the ancestral spiritual realm but found out that they are God’s colours,” he says convinced.

“Black and white are the colours of existence and they define God’s intentions on earth. After the darkness comes the light of the next day, then darkness, then light.

“There cannot be light without darkness and no darkness without light. So these are colours that are meant to co-exist hence my black and white regalia -— it is Godly,” he says.

Before delving in active politics, Chipanga had turned heads after starting his church called Mapipi, an abbreviation for “Messiah Apostolic Prophetically Inspired People’s Institution.

Now that the “prophet of the people”, has dumped the Bible, rod, staff and holy oil for the mace and green seats of Parliament, what happens to his flock?

“It is the same thing. Religion, music and the church that I was running is the same thing. People need to balance spiritual nourishment, physical nourishment of providing people with services to make their lives comfortable as well and advocacy through song to sing the plight of the poor. This all comes together and dovetails. And I am that man who shall deliver all that to the people of my constituency,” he says.

It all often seems a bit nutty. But all genius is flawed and Chipanga seems to sing a song that resonates with the people.

When he descends upon Dangamvura and meets “his” people, all hell breaks loose. The excitement is palpable. The man is mobbed. In spite of some of his cryptic mystique type lyrics, his people understand what he is saying and what he is singing. He speaks to their soul.

“I shall call you mudhara Philo,” says one of a couple of chaps drinking a curious white substance which we later learn is a brandy mixed with fresh milk; “You are a philosopher so Philo is the shortcut of the name I have given you. You are a genius,” he says.

Hot on the heels of the chap with the white concoction comes a bevy of women with loud lipstick, deep powdery face foundation and deathly eye shadow. They too mob him wanting pictures with him. The musician-cum-prophet-cum-politician is also a chick magnet!

And as they cuddle him and touch him, often times inappropriately, he sits bemused with nonchalance as if nothing is happening around him, knowing they shall quit touching him once they are done taking “selfies” with him.

“My father is a difficult person to understand,” admits his son Curtis Donemore.

“Some even say he is mad but come on, I live with the man every day. All I can say is if he were mad so too would I because I understand him, I live with him every day and I understand him.

I think he is a deep philosopher and sometimes he has these revelations that make even me see that he is more than an ordinary human but is blessed with some prophetic gift of revelation,” he says.

All the while a DJ is belting Hosiah Chipanga songs while a man dances. Not an ordinary man, but some strange vagabond as well.

He is dressed in women’s boots like Tina Turner’s favourites, and has a pair of overall pants and a silk purple shirt that is swaying in the wintry cold.

He has a deep thick beard and from within the dark thicket of beard escapes a pearly white smile as he breaks into song, dancing as if it were the end of the world!

Hosiah waits for the braai meat to be ready so that he can quietly pull himself out of the thicket of “chicks” that are all over him.

For him, dealing with alcohol drinkers and alcoholics is all in a day’s work, despite himself being a teetotaller.

Later on he tells us he will win the election and fix the road unlike what his nonchalant non-performing predecessors are doing, or rather not doing.

“I hope you enjoyed the privilege of being with the MP,” he says as we drop him off. He chuckles as he says this.

And from the encounter one escapes with four words; poet, philosopher, mystic vagabond. Oh and add . . . genius! The Herald.