After the successful April 28 Big Bira concert which was held at Glamis Arena in Harare last year, Entertainment Republic were encouraged to bring back Thomas Mapfumo for a second running. This time it was not to be in Harare only, but throughout Zimbabwe. Whether the promoters, due to the success of the April gig in Harare, over-estimated the popularity of Mapfumo throughout Zimbabwe or they thought that people in other towns needed Mapfumo, is a question left unanswered. Eight cities and towns — namely Gweru, Bulawayo, Beitbridge, Masvingo, Mutare, Kariba, Victoria Falls — and finally Harare were identified as venues for what was dubbed the Peace Tour. The first port of call was to be Gweru.
In the groove with Fred Zindi
Before the concerts started, Maxwell Mugaba, the lead promoter of Entertainment Republic came to see me. I told him well in advance that he shouldn’t expect to make money on such an extensive tour. I told him that we tried it back in 1982 with Misty In Roots when there was only one single viable PA system in the country. Transporting this system from town to town and setting it up in time was a big challenge. The Gweru and Bulawayo gigs were too close to each other. Today with the fuel crisis in the country, it was going to be difficult to timeously meet the scheduled gigs. They were too congested and sound checks should be conducted at least a day in advance of the scheduled concerts. Well, Mugaba was hoping for a break-even situation. I wished him well and the tour started.
The Gweru show, which was scheduled to start at 7pm on Friday December 7, did not kick off for two reasons — (1) The sound system which was coming from Harare arrived late due to unavailability of diesel.
(2) The promoters failed to secure a three-phase armature cable to connect the music equipment to an electricity point. There were people in the city of Gweru who could hire it out to them at a cost of $1 200, which the promoters deemed too expensive. So, the Peace Tour opening gig at Gweru Golf Club failed to take place as a result. This degenerated into violence from some unruly youths.
Danford Katambira of Entertainment Republic found himself being accosted by an angry crowd, something he had no experience in dealing with until he escaped from the scene in a Honda Fit.
It is at this point that the organisers felt that they had been sabotaged. One commentator who spoke on condition of anonymity had this to say:
“What do you expect? Mukanya going to sing Chauya Chauya and Mamvemve in Midlands province where Mnangagwa comes from? Impossible. So spanners were thrown into the works.”
According to Blessing Vava, Mukanya’s publicist and acting manager during the Peace Tour, “On the Friday, we were not even sure the Gweru show would take off as we had problems with immigration authorities who were saying that Mukanya was not a Zimbabwean citizen.”
Apparently, Mukanya had entered Zimbabwe using his American passport. So, he was being treated like a foreigner.
Maxwell Mugaba of Entertainment Republic sent me an e-mail after the Beitbridge gig. Part of the e-mail read:
“The tour had a false start with a cocktail of challenges, including power supply issues and logistical challenges.
“However, we got it right on our second date in Bulawayo, but the economic hardships in the country saw us having a shockingly low attendance also exacerbated by bad weather. It rained from 6pm to about 2am.
“Beitbridge went well with encouraging numbers and a spirited performance by Thomas. The challenges of sound and stage have seen us travel with our own from Harare on all the legs of the tour. It’s been a challenge indeed.
“We have overcome the challenges so far, albeit at a heavy loss.
“Regarding the Harare concert, the ideal venue, according to Entertainment Republic, was the spacious Harare International Conference Centre (HICC), but Rainbow Towers inflated their fee to US$30 000 from the initially agreed US$15 000.
“We failed to hold the Harare concert at the HICC as initially planned and had to move it to an alternative venue.”
The same commentator added: “The hire charges for HICC were increased for Thomas Mapfumo only. No one has ever paid US$30 000 to hire that venue. It was again spanners in the works of the Mamvemve singer. Sabotage, I tell you!”
Entertainment Republic was also forced to cancel the Kariba concert.
This was because the sound system suitable for the event, which they had rented for the concert, had been vandalised in Kwekwe during a Winky D concert.
On December 31, 2018, Vava released a press statement on his Facebook page, part of which read: “Beloved Chimurenga music lovers,
As the curtain comes down on our whirlwind Peace Tour of the country, I would first and foremost want to thank you for your unwavering support for both the Chimurenga music brand and the Peace Tour, which without your dedication would certainly have not registered the successes we did and continue to register.
In the face of several challenges and immense drawbacks, you managed to stand by the brand and continue to support the social movement every step of the way.
While the past few weeks heralded a massive statement on the state of Chimurenga music and your love for it, it would be proper to also open up and give the fans an appraisal on the myriad of challenges that we faced in a country such as ours that has its set of problems which no doubt eventually trickle down to us as a movement and the fans.
The road to the completion and even mere achievement of the tour was itself not rosy and many problems were faced, many of which were unfortunately impossible to pre-plan against and no fault of our own.
“We failed to hold the Harare concert at the HICC as hire charges were pegged at US$30 000. Such a fare would have meant passing on the costs to the fans who were already feeling the overhead pinch of an economy in crisis, hence we walked away from the arrangement.
“We decided to move the concert to Club Hideout 99, a nostalgic home for Chimurenga music over the years, without cancelling the date for the said show.
“We regretfully had to cancel the Kariba concert despite the crew and members having made their way there. This was because the sound system suitable for the event, which we had rented for the concert, had been vandalised in Kadoma during a Winky D concert in a terribly unfortunate incident and a replacement of equal quality could not be secured especially in the festive season when such equipment is pre-booked and in high demand.
“Regardless, we take heart and learn from the experiences of the tour. There is need for collaboration, unity, development and learning if a nation and her arts are to progress and move perfectly into the century of progress.
“Finally, we are mere entertainers and a people’s social movement without any untoward hidden agenda. We have been since inception and continue to be such.
“We would like to apologise to expectant but disappointed fans at venues we either had to reschedule, move, or cancel as this was beyond our realm of control.”
Vava is now in South Africa, but it seems the Peace Tour has continued on as in January, Mapfumo has had a series of “farewell” concerts. I would suggest that if he really wants a farewell gig, he should rope in Jah Prayzah, Oliver Mtukudzi and Winky D. He will get the crowd.