“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”.
By Jairos Saunyama
The above quotation by Hellen Keller is an apt description of how life has become for two of the country’s most loved comic actors, Timothy “Timmy” Tapfumanei and Lawrence “Bhonzo” Simbarashe.
Both veteran broadcasters had their chances on top of the ladder within the local showbiz scene, but more than a decade after their fame, each of them is leading his own life.
Timmy and Bhonzo was a formidable outfit; their combination was a marvel to watch and very few locals would miss their drama series which used to be screened on national television.
What is most striking today is how things have changed, especially for Timmy, who back then was a gardener, but is now living a comfortable life while his mentor’s fortunes have melted into abyss.
For Bhonzo, the adage “from rags to riches” has taken the reverse twist.
Something indeed has changed, and unlike his former jovial self that would be spotted at the once popular Hotel Nyamutamba in Chitungwiza joking with friends with that voice, which was familiar on local radios or television, the comedian has fallen on hard times.
On the other hand, his long-time ally, Timmy, sits in a comfortable office chair, giving orders to subordinates. Unlike his mentor Bhonzo, Timmy’s life flourished after having capitalised on his talent and landed a good job as a finance advisor at insurance company, Old Mutual.
So what went wrong with Bhonzo?
Timmy was quoted on a popular website in 2012 boasting of how acting had helped him rise to the top, but it was no longer his priority.
“Acting is good, it puts you in the right position if you know how to utilise fame. But the truth is that I have got other commitments in life. To me, acting is not full-time, since I am more into the insurance and finance sector….. In life one should be innovative, and as an artiste, you have to be very creative and come up with ways of making a living. You have to diversify and as a public figure, you can easily market yourself and your fame is the key that opens doors for you,” said Timmy.
If this is what has resulted in Timmy living a decent life after arts, then what went wrong with Bhonzo, given all the influence he had on fans and companies? Is it that Bhonzo failed to utilise opportunities while still at his peak?
For now, these questions remain unanswered, but as most would like to put it across, misfortunes have rocked Bhonzo’s life.
Timmy told The Standard Style recently that Bhonzo’s downfall was a result of the “era” in which he became popular. He said his mentor failed to “handle popularity.”
“It is true that I utilised the opportunities I got to get where I am. But when it comes to Mudhara Bhonzo, it is the era in which he became popular,” said Timmy.
“By then, arts was regarded as something that was not important. For example, those who played guitars during that time vainzi marombe [were called fools]. Mudhara Bhonzo was one of the few blacks who took it to the screen and I remember well that he was a news anchor. There is a huge age difference between him and myself, and what I can say is that he failed to handle popularity. But as I said, there is a generational gap between me and Mudhara Bhonzo, he is old enough to be my father, we belong to different eras.”
The 48-year-old Timmy’s life is a reflection of hard work and determination. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies, a certificate of proficiency in long-term insurance and is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Business Administration. He joined ZBC in 1988 as a gardener before being promoted to become a messenger.
Through his diligence and zeal, he later became a programmes compiler for the then Radio 3, and was promoted to the position of library supervisor, also for Radio 3.
By the time he left ZBC in December 2003, he was the manager of the archives and library services at the State-owned media outlet, before he became a liaison officer with the National Social Security Authority for the Midlands region. He, however, left for Botswana in 2008 where he joined Coverlink Insurance Brokers and worked as a broker for Metropolitan Life and Botswana Life Insurance for four years. In 2011, he returned home and joined Old Mutual.
“Artistes, both established and young ones, need to invest in the future. Being on top will not last forever. They need to make good use of fame,” he said.
“Even the current crop of dancehall artistes should do the same. They should read and further their education in case of a time when they get down the ladder. There is life after fame and with qualifications, one can find a decent job.”
The veteran actor recently donated a two-seater couch, double bed and television set to Bhonzo. He said he made the donation as a way of thanking Bhonzo for discovering his talent and putting him in the limelight in the 90s.
Bhonzo was not available for comment, but a source said the former broadcaster failed to invest during his heydays.
“It is no longer a secret that things have fallen apart and Bhonzo is having a torrid time,” said the source.
“He was once regarded as a rich man with a fleet of cars and I cannot believe it myself that he now walks on foot and sometimes barefooted. He once owned two BMWs, a Toyota Champ and an Alpha Romeo, among other cars.
After leaving ZBC, Bhonzo ventured into freelance advertising where he became a voice behind many adverts on radio and television. He clinched advertising deals with various retailers, hoteliers and hardware shops, among others.
Misfortunes have, however, over the past years drained all his energy, humour and creativity. After battling with a blood pressure-related ailment for years, Bhonzo lost most of his household property when his house was gutted by fire a few years ago
One of his mentees, Charles Jackson — popularly known as Dhazimata in the Bhonzo Nechikwata series — said Bhonzo remains the best actor in the country.
Jackson, who resides a stone’s throw away from Bhonzo’s house in St Mary’s in Chitungwiza, is one of a few people who forked out money to rebuild the former broadcaster’s house after it was razed down by fire.