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Chipanga unfazed by death threats

Oliver Shambira

WHILE his prowess in weaving lyrics that appeal to the downtrodden has endeared him to many, Hoseah Chipanga’s fame has equally earned him a f

air share of enemies.

Cognisant of the popularity and impact of his hard-hitting lyrics that bemoan the decay that has taken root in the country, the ZCTU did not have any problem deciding on him to entertain workers at their May Day celebrations at Gwanzura Stadium last Sunday. It was obvious he would draw them a crowd bigger than their rivals, the government-aligned ZFTU who were commemorating the same day at Rufaro.

Workers who have given up on empty rhetoric and lies usually spewed on such occasions had made a date for free entertainment which now comes at a premium. But a threat to his life saw the musician pull out at the eleventh hour, scuppering what could have been a day to remember.

The grim announcement was made over the radio at lunch time.

Sources in the trade union movement said the threats were desperate attempts to dampen hard-pressed workers’ enthusiasm on a day set aside to walk through their plight and chart the way forward.

An official with the ZCTU confirmed Chipanga was threatened with death if he dared perform at Gwanzura.

“I can confirm getting the message that the artist had been threatened with death which led to him pulling out at the eleventh hour,” said the official.

Reached for comment on Wednesday, Chipanga confirmed he had been threatened thrice on the same day.

“I received three calls from three different people ‘advising’ me to choose between life and money. I ignored the first call but when two more calls came through, the gravity of the threat dawned on me,” said Chipanga.

He however said his mobile phone did not reflect the numbers from which the calls came.

“I’ve had a cordial working relationship with the ZCTU since my days in Mutare and had received a deposit of $35 million for the PA system and performance which I had to reimburse,” said Chipanga, adding, “I am however grateful that they understood the predicament which led me to pull-out.”

He could not suggest motives of the threats but reiterated that even if people took offence he did not sing for himself but Musikavanhu (God).

Following years of hard work in oblivion, Chipanga’s star appeared to get the glitter when he staged shows with sungura king Alick Macheso. The joint shows heralded a new era in his career and saw his wizardry with lyrics get a well-deserved attention.

Even President Mugabe acknowledged his efforts after a scintillating performance at an Independence eve ball at the HICC.

Chipanga penned and performed a “Mugabe favourite”, Gushungo Havana Mhosva, which exonerates the president of all ills besetting the country, blaming instead his cabinet for the meltdown which is worsening by the day.

His critics have been quick to attack him over his reluctance to bash the leader for keeping known non-performers in his bloated cabinet.

Chipanga’s predicament highlights the public’s recognition of the role of the arts sector and growing uneasiness of government with those it deems acerbic opponents of its rule.

South African music producer Cleo was last week taken off a list of entertainers at a venue in Bulawayo while the NACZ probes disparaging remarks he is alleged to have uttered about President Mugabe. The pliant have been allowed free rein to shore up the ruling party at public functions.

But despite threats to his life, Chipanga has vowed to carry on preaching through music.

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