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Drunkard or genius?. . . In search of the real Mackay ‘Sakhamuzi’ Tickeys

By Bruce Ndlovu

FINDING the grave of legendary actor Mackay “Sakhamuzi” Tickeys is not an easy task.

The late Mackay “Sakhamuzi” Tickeys

Most of the people who he befriended or shared the stage with have simply no idea where those who survive him reside.

According to Fortune Ruzungude, the man who starred opposite Tickeys as Folomani in Sinjalo, Tickey’s family has relocated to South Africa. Although he used to live a stone’s throw away from his fellow cast member, Ruzungude is not entirely sure of what became of Tickeys’ family.

Instead, he passes on another contact to this reporter and from that number the trail grew cold again.

Veteran actor and director Memory Kumbota remembers that when he passed away, Tickeys had a wife and a young daughter. He is also at a loss about the family’s current whereabouts.

The search for the real Sakhamuzi is not an easy one. In his prime, Tickeys was one of Zimbabwe’s most respected actors, a master of his craft who lived and breathed for the roles that he took on whether on stage or on TV.

So dedicated was he to his craft that retired arts practitioner Cont Mhlanga remembers how Tickeys would become consumed by a role he was cast in.

“He was so dedicated to his craft. If the script said that he should play a beggar then he would go to the railway station and live as a beggar for five weeks just so that he could play the role of one. After those five weeks he would come back and say now I’m ready to play this role,” Mhlanga said.

Despite glowing praise from Mhlanga and others in the arts, Tickeys’ legacy is not exactly clear cut. His death in 2006 almost led to an uprising at Amakhosi, after an obituary  claimed that the actor had led an irresponsible life that had led to his early death.

“Tickeys celebrated his performing success by beer drinking, women and died a pale shadow of the township hero that he was, poor and penniless with nothing to show for his achievements . . . At the end of the day people blame us as producers when they see an actor dying without anything.

They tend to believe we swindle actors out of their earnings,” the statement which was later withdrawn, said.

A ferocious fight had followed that statement, with Mhlanga in the end getting a court order to bar some performers that had become hostile to him especially in the aftermath of that damning obituary.

While he seemed to have gone the way of many artistes before and after him, there were those that were prepared to fight so that his image was not tarnished as he headed for the grave.

So exactly who was Mackay Tickeys? Was he a down and out drunkard that passed without a penny to his name on 16 June 2006 or was he a man of the people, people who were even prepared to fight tooth and nail and risk their own livelihood so that his name would not live in infamy posthumously?

“If you got to know him well he was a different person off the stage. Funny and fun loving yes, but he had his softer side, his fears, his ambitions, his love for his daughter uS’phongo and his nephews.

He was a strong father figure. Just like the best of us he would mess up from time to time uBhudas. We all called him Bhudas by the way. Even today I still call him that.

Sometimes we messed up together but it was all in good natured fun,” said Kumbota. Sunday News.

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