Griots of Mugabe: Once Upon A Time

November 27, 2017 Africa , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

AJE photo



Mbizo Chirasha


Mugabe had become an anthem for the rich and a hymn for the poor in Zimbabwe. Songs for Mugabe carried fatty political messages glorifying the tyrant, he who had squandered the dreams of impoverished villages and corruption smitten townships in a country that once glittered with promise and a glow of freedom. Ironically, despite the moral decadence and economic rot, the Mugabe totem (Gushungo!, Gushungo!, Gushungo!) remained the praise-theme song, the lead song, song of freedom, a revolutionary song…Madness!

The year 2000 came with the rise of many musical outfits and dance troupes that cherished the leadership of Mugabe despite the harsh living conditions and ravaging poverty that whipped year and year out. Many danced and sung for Mugabe.

The most popular of the griots is the widely known catchy, gyrating, buttock dangling and slogan wielding Mbare Chimurenga Choir, a cheap propaganda outfit birthed by the militant youth group Chipangano that terrorized opposition, politicians and activists in the bovine stricken and stench ridden old suburb of Mbare. The troupes were propaganda tools and campaign machinery mostly in pre-election, post election and during elections. These griots were also cheap political sweeteners that rejuvenated the mojo of the waning dictator, Mugabe. Painfully In those poverty smitten, old suburbs of Mbare, Mugabe remains the song, a song forced into the psyche of the penury tired and violence bleached masses.

The stink of the Mugabe praises was smelt everywhere including the dinge skokian outlets and radio stations especially the Radio-Zimbabwe located in Mbare suburbs of Zimbabwe.


“Va Mugabe chete vari kutonga!

Va Mugabe ndivo vari kutonga!”

(Mugabe is the only one ruling! Yes Mugabe is ruling)


Poverty is usually not separated from dictatorship. Our people had been conditioned to praise and respect dictatorship. History repeats itself. Tshaka killed and displaced a lot of people in Zululand but those violated citizens continued to pay allegiance to him as their Nkosi (the Supreme leader). The lines underneath are an extract from one of the popular praise songs for Mugabe by the slogan fervent, Mbare Chimurenga Choir:


Pokutanga tarisa panani ko?, ahe he he pana VaMugabe, Pechipiri  tarisa panani ko o”,

(lyrics indicating that Mugabe is in control)


The popular chorus goes on and on as it resonates with eye-catching, back dangling (kongonya) dance by the troupe. The praise chorus and gyrations are very ironic given the ragged Zimbabwean situation.


At the turn of the century it was like the Hitler and Goebbels era in Zimbabwe, in that all art should praise the Fuhrer. Arts and culture became part of Hitler’s political message and tools of propaganda that oiled his power. In Germany at that time the Nazi dictatorship was shaped and led by a ruthless political fox Joseph Goebbels. Africa must have borrowed this rot from Hitler, Mussolini, Napoleon and Stalin.

In Africa, praise griots are used during elections and then discarded. They are picked again when the election season begins. Mugabe was a master in this area. Not only dancers or singers sang for Mugabe, political stalwarts also sang the Mugabe anthem for cabinet posts and protection.

The late Elliot Manyika, former Minister of Youth Affairs and once Head of Commissariat in the ZANU-PF party (party ideology education department) was a very charismatic and loudly praised singer for Mugabe. He recruited a host of young musicians to be part of the ZANU-PF campaign machinery. A lot of them lost their creative stamina in the same way they lost their genuine audience. Manyika is popularly known for his song Nora; the song goes:


“Nora a a a, Nora vakomana,

Mhururu kuenda, nokudzoka mhururu

Viva Zanu, kugara musango taneta,

Viva Zanu kugara musango tanetseka

Viva Zanu ndeyeropa”


Manyika was a violent politician, many people who opposed ZANU-PF and Mugabe dying around the country and his province Mashonaland Central during his political tenure. He was a political praise singer himself, in addition to undoubtedly being one of the Zimbabwean Goebbels of our time, that also includes Jonathan Moyo, the architects of oppressive media laws in Zimbabwe that created the airplay of 75 percent Zimbabwean content on TV and Radio, the songs played being mostly propaganda jingles that praised Mugabe and the ZANU-PF Party.

I can’t close the infamous list without mentioning Border Gezi, the founder of the vicious National Youth Service, nicknamed the Green Bombers, known for violent attacks on anyone who opposed Mugabe. Another singer is Webster Shamu, who is the only surviving former political commissar of the Mugabe led ZANU-PF. Webster Shamu once referred to Mugabe as the sweetest/creamiest powdered milk (Cremora). It gives you an indication of the amount of praise-singing by these cadres and why Mugabe thought he was a political God.

Most of these guys were either dumped by ZANU-PF through Mugabe or died mysteriously. Border Gezi died in a tragic accident on his way to Masvingo province. He was also a loyal griot to the ruthless Mugabe, history suggesting that the death of this politician was an internal ZANU-PF arrangement like the demise of Elliot Manyika, another griot, as well as Moven Mahachi, another Mugabe loyalist and Party Commissar; all these politicians died tragically and through accidents.

Mr ‘Cremora’ was sadly chucked out of the party alongside his so called Gamatox Cabal led by party doyens Didymus Mutasa and Joice Mujuru. This explains what a shrewd schemer Mugabe was, so Mugabe respected no singer, bootlicker or griot, though he enjoyed to be bootlicked and would pay back with a howl and life threatening fist; that’s Mugabe for you. I wonder why people didn’t learn for they continued to wax lyrics for the politically tired, stubborn, bullish and bovine dictator in Mugabe.


Tambaoga is a young man whose roots are considered to be Hurungwe. He resided in Chitungwiza, near Harare, where he dramatically rose to stardom to become the ZANU-PF griot-in-residence, performing at ZANU-PF congresses and conferences. Tambaoga sang ZANU-PF anthems, jingles and Mugabe praise songs. He enjoyed five years of airplay, from 2000 to 2005 his jingles dominating broadcasting stations like soap and life assurance adverts. At one time Tambaoga aka Last Chiyangwa received money for his vitriolic lyrics directed towards Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Britain, a sworn enemy of the Mugabe establishment, the scorching lyrics went:


“Handure, ndure, ndure ndure ndurendu

Musatinetse musatishupe mabrishiti (the British)

The Blair that I know is a toilet”


Last Chiyangwa aka Tambaoga was later dumped by ZANU-PF after his political godfathers Jonathan Moyo (suspended from the party and government in 2004) and Elliot Manyika had died in a mysterious accident. He went into a serious depression perpetuated by stress, hunger, drinking, neglect and poverty, the side effects of becoming a praise singer of a ruthless party like ZANU-PF with its leader Mugabe.

The list of these singers is long and doesn’t exclude both of the dictator’s wives. Grace Mugabe rose to fame three years after she was awarded a leadership role in the party as the Chairperson of the Women’s League. She also popularized the Mugabe anthem at her rallies where she would lash at everyone she thought had the potential to succeed Mugabe.


“Ava ndibaba, makavapiwa namwari

Chokwadi ukavenga va Mugabe haupinde denga”

(If you hate Mugabe you don’t get to be admitted to heaven),


…exclaimed Grace Mugabe at one of her rallies amid cheers from the politically clueless crowds.


Sometimes in the 1980s, the late Sally Mugabe (first wife of Mugabe) belted a slogan that became popular in Zimbabwe and can be found even today in broadcasting archives:


“Kukurigorigo ndiani ko?

Kukurigorigo ndibaba Mugabe!

(Mugabe is the Cockerel)”


So this indicates that the singing for Mugabe began a long time ago and had become generational that Mugabe was now a God. The Mugabe totem, Mugabe mojo, the Mugabe praise had become bigger than the masses and more popular than the flag.

In rural settings the news and songs about Mugabe were special like a good diet. I grew up in a setting with beautiful topography of snaking rivers and misty dressed hills but our fathers seemed not to cherish the natural beauty, unsteadily mesmerized instead by the giant in Mugabe (Gushungo) whose praise hymns they sung in beer gatherings, his slogans chanted in village gatherings.

They taught us that Mugabe was equated to the black Zimbabwean God, they made us believe this myth that Mugabe went to London and came back carrying Zimbabwe in his fist. So he was second from God. They warned not to chant any other slogan than Mugabe’s.

Mugabe is a revolutionary yes, but as I look back the hype projected by our peasant fathers was hyperbolic. The Mugabe mantra became a cult and doctrine in the minds of several generations. We were shaped by the Mugabe cult and cultivated Mugabe’s propaganda.

This is why it was difficult to remove Mugabe from power, being hard to dismantle a political cult, especially the Mugabe cult. Mugabeism has not only  become a ZANU-PF cult, but a Zimbabwean, if not an African ideology. He already fits in the class of Bonaparte, Bokassa, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.

Surprisingly while we wallowed in this political and economic quagmire we still had griots singing for the Mugabe cult. Ironically in Zimbabwe the Robert Mugabe Road has become one of the most filthy squares of illicit lifestyles which include sex selling, to illegal driving, skokian drinking, purse snatching and bloody fists fights. All these vices of doom resonate with the thunderous fall of the Last Napoleon of Africa. The song of his griots sinks in the mass wail for a new political dawn.





Mbizo Chirasha

Mbizo Chirasha is an Internationally published poet, writer, blog publisher and Citizen  Justice Activist. Mbizo Chirasha is the Originator/Instigator of the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign (Brave Voices Poetry Journal-Tuck Magazine, Word Guerrillas Protest Poetry Journal – Zimbabwe Sphere, Poets Free Zimbabwe- MiomboPublishing). Mbizo is also the participant of the International Human Rights Arts Festival, Exiled in Africa Programin New York, United States.

His poetry, writing and blog journals are widely published across the globe. Mbizo Chirasha is also the founder /creative director of GirlchildCreativityProject. He is the Zimbabwe Resident Coordinator of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change – Global and the WomenScream International Poetry Festival. Mbizo has led a number of creative interventions and arts based projects. Mbizo Chirasha can be  found at the following links:

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