Home » Arts & Culture » Zim’s Golden Oldies

There are names whose letters seem to make up history. It is impossible to speak of an era at any time without mentioning the people who made the times what they were.

The sixties into the eighties saw many names rise to the surface in the black psyche for various reasons. Mostly it was in the form of being the first black people to dare break the mould prescribed by prevailing norms.

Zimbabwe has in the past produced a superfluity of history makers in various spheres of life. Rightly, the freedom fighters and activists came at the top of the list as they physically battled for independence from colonial rule.

Some of them are dead, and those surviving are now a bit long in the tooth, but it is wonderful to note that they are still considered heroes by the generations that grew up with them.

Meanwhile, many modern youths look up at their own current heroes who are charting new territories, never imagine that there are some intrepid Zimbabweans who have been there and scaled great heights, albeit in contexts of their own time.

Kubi Indi

Arnold Tongai Chirisa and Danai Gurira are celebrated for breaking into and rising in the tough US showbiz scene. Very few youngsters realise that there is a pioneer whose image on celluloid went across the globe long before a TV in every home was commonplace.

Former top international model, Kubi Chaza, who later married film producer and actor John Indi was an actress in the UK, appearing in “Live and Let Die” in 1973 as a saleswoman picking up Roger Moore as James Bond. It may not have been a major role and her name did not appear on the poster which only listed the stars but that was a great achievement.

Kubi appeared on the covers of various magazines including Parade, which was then the place to be for anyone with any dreams of greatness. She founded House of Kubi, a company making beauty products specifically for black skin and African hair.

Still looking very good, Kubi and husband John have since exited public life but appear to be prospering. Some sources close to the family have revealed that the couple travels to South Africa frequently where they have a second home and unspecified business interests.

Freddy Mukwesha

It would be impossible to talk about any time in the history of the nation after the 1950 without talking about the soccer greats. There list is endless with names like Archford Chimutanda, Freddy Gotora, Shacky Tauro, George Shaya and the Chidzambwa brothers who went under the name Marimo, but in this article we zero in on Freddy Mukwesha, the first professional black football player in the country. He is arguably the best ever, or at least a frontrunner in any list, if that title can ever be awarded to anyone.

He went to play for Sporting De Braga of Portugal pre-Independence and acquitted himself well. Unfortunately the then Rhodesian national team was banned from international competitions for the racist policies of the colonial regime and the Mukwesha and his peers never got a chance to prove their mettle on the international stage.

Mukwesha got married to another luminary, this one in the music industry, the redoubtable Stella Chiweshe who is still an active musician with an international following. The couple had some progeny before they both moved on.

Today Mukwesha is the proprietor of an eatery at Raylton Sports Club. It looks like he might have hung up his boots, but Mukwesha is still very much a hero in the eyes of the multitudes who got a chance to see him in action all those years ago.

Susan Mapara

Now better known by the name Sue Peters, this beauty from the Eastern Highlands made waves in the seventies when she shook up the local and regional modelling scene.

She was the country’s first black supermodel after sweeping off all the titles on offer. After winning her first few titles became the first non-white student to be accepted by a local modelling school. She impressed so much that she became an instructor at the school and thus opened the doors to other ethnicities like blacks, Indians and coloureds to get professional training in the business.

Her picture by legendary photographer Bester Kanyama appeared on the cover of Parade magazine, making her one of the very few women to ever get there then. She was also one of the very few blacks to make it onto the pages of The Herald pre-independence.

She personified beauty and brains, long before that phrase became the clicheacute that it has become. She went on to train and work in accounting before founding her own businesses which included a cosmetic manufacturing company and hair salons.

She is resident in the country and has since added to her interests with top of the range health fitness centres in Harare and Mutare.

Her Borrowdale Body Active Gym is the home of current holder of the World Body Building title (U90 kg) category- which he won in Italy last year, Victor Hungwe.

Lawrence Simbarashe

Many will remember the white haired Bonzo from the “Timmy na Bonzo” comedy when ZTV was still a channel of choice even though most of us did not have access to other options.

It was a time when only professions like medicine and teaching were considered respectable while blue collar jobs were viewed as acceptable for those of limited academic capacity.

Trying to make a living in sport or the arts was perceived to be a bad call made by lazy and misguided layabouts, even though old players like Safirio Madzikatire of the Mukadota fame proved otherwise. Sadly this particular actor seems to have set out to prove such perceptions true.

By his own admittance, contrary to the belief that the creative industry did not pay, “Mudhara Bhonzo” did well for himself. He says that he spent the money on the usual desires of those in the fast lane including booze and women.

Unfortunately retirement is far from golden for the actor. In spite of still being considered a celebrity by those who enjoyed his series, Lawrence Simbarashe is now practically destitute and a good example of how not to enjoy fame.

Mwamuka, Machipisa, Matambanadzo, Kambasha and Mwakomva. This story would be incomplete without mentioning the early generations of black entrepreneurs who were known as “businessmen” a label that meant prosperity beyond what the ordinary people could dream off.

It carried different weight from these days when anyone and everyone is an entrepreneur.

The Mwamukas, Mwakomvas, Matambanadzos and the Kambashas were among the most prominent names with several retail outlets in the high density areas of Harare and their home towns or buses plying different country routes.

They often inaertently gave service centres their name, like the man Machipisa gave his name to the shopping centre which carries his name today.

Most, if not all of them, are no more. Some of the legacies have been carried on and upped while others have disintegrated into the dust. We managed to establish that some of the children and grandchildren of Makomva and Mwamuka have kept the original business lines going, albeit with expansions and diversifications that fit the times.

Source : The Herald