Saturday, August 19, 2006


Thomas Tafirenyika Mapfumo, aka Mukanya, should be happy.

Last Monday morning, just before sitting down to an interview with in Toronto, Canada, he received news from his Oregon base. He and his family’s political asylum application had been accepted by US authorities.

“That is great news,” I said.

“I should not have been forced to do it. No Zimbabwean should be forced to seek refugee protection abroad. It is humiliating,” Mukanya responded, betraying a controlled anger with President Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship.

“I fought for that country in my own way. We all fought for it, and yet some people are now claiming everything, including the right to oppress us, suppress our views and just burn our country,” added the typically defiant Mapfumo.

The man considered by many as Zimbabwe’s best known musical export is also hailed as one of the unsung heroes of Zimbabwe’s liberation war.

In the 1970s when others were crossing over into Mozambique and Zambia to participate in a guerrilla uprising that brought independence in 1980, Mapfumo used his music to fight the “people’s enemy on his turf”. He was thrown in jail for it.

After independence, Mapfumo was soon throwing salvos at the Zanu PF government which fast turned into a corrupt regime and slowly degenerated into the dictatorship it is today.

“I really feel sad about what is happening at home,” said Mukanya whose latest album, Rise Up was banned in Zimbabwe because it highlights the problems inflicted on the people of Zimbabwe by the government.

“Educated people are supposed to know better but they have degrees of destruction,” he said in reference to Mugabe and most of his ministers who are university graduates. “Yet, tikaisa sabhuku anotogona kutonga nyika zvirinani 'if we put a mere village headman in office in Zimbabwe, he may do a better job'.”

The aging music guru believes that Zimbabwe’s problems would best be solved through dialogue between Mugabe’s Zanu PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

However, he said on his last visit to Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai invited him for an exchange of views.

“For hours we talked with Tsvangirai and I believe he has very good and workable ideas which he is ready to share with Mugabe, but the old man does not want to share anything,” he said.

Mukanya also lamented that despite that there are an estimated 3-4 million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, they are not doing anything to force change in Zimbabwe.

“There are enough of us out here to cause change in Zimbabwe through lobbying, advocacy and other means, but typically, we are not united,” he said.



If you were not at El Mocambo, Toronto on Friday night, I know you want to me to tell you what Mukanya was up to and I will tell you, of course.

For more than 2 hours, Thomas Mapfumo, the Lion of Zimbabwean music, did what he knows best. He took his sizeable (I mean really sizeable) audience back to the good old days with such yesteryear hits as “Chipatapata”, “Chiruzevha Chapera”, “Corruption” and many more until he fittingly closed with “Bhutsu Mutandarika”.

When I got to the El Mocambo Club -seeing the small crowd- I was fearful that Mukanya might do what those who claim to know him better accuse him of doing, that is, play just a few minutes and take off complaining that he was such a big name who only performs to big crowds.

Well, none of that happened, in fact Mukanya performed as if he was in front of 60 000 fans in The National Sports Stadium back in Harare.

I am not about to give excuses for Mukanya, but the small crowd could have been that he performed to a large non-paying crowd on Monday and the thrifty among us took advantage. After all most of us are still on social assistance!!

I have some advice though for Thomas Mapfumo: Mukanya, people do not like it or enjoy it when you crouch down, right to the floor to sing. Are you in agony, they want to know.

Also, audiences want to see you dance all the time, not shuffle a little and then stand up there and watch them with what most construe as a bemused or disapproving stare while Loveness, your backing singer and dancer, is literally killing herself with fancy footwork.

Just thought I should say this and hope that when you come next time there will be a more upright Mukanya to listen to, watch and dance with.