Rhumba finally switched off

RHUMBA musicians are colourful personalities. They live large and often whither under the storm of publicity.

Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo, gave the world rhumba music — a genre that has also subgenres like soukouss and the slow seductive mellow madness by artistes like Koffie Olomide.

It does not matter whether its Pepe Kalle, Kanda Bongo Man, Aloius Mabele, Alan Konkou, Papa Wemba, Werrason or Olomide — they all dress flashy, move with big troupes and live it large on stage.

They mesmerise their audiences with their raunchy or slow sensual and seductive dance routines. There is a certain class about them. They dress to the nines.

Zimbabwe fell in love with rhumba. Some businessmen invested heavily in them and the best remembered for that is flashy businessman Philip Chiyangwa. He brought to Zimbabwe many of the successful rhumba artistes for high-profile shows.

Rhumba as a genre was so successful that some businessmen opened nightclubs that catered for rhumba fans.

Quick to mind is the international chain of Chez Ntemba nightclubs and Fortress at Ambassador Hotel in Harare.

The popularity of the genre enticed some Zimbabweans to try their hand on the genre.

However, the experiment came with mixed fortunes to the artistes. One artiste who quickly comes to mind is Energy Mutodi, the recently axed Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services deputy minister.

Mutodi is a flashy dresser, poor dancer and mostly his voice is off tune.

However, the deep followers of the music still came — most likely inspired to meet their friends than real dancing to Mutodi tunes.

Mutodi has a big ego and thought himself bigger than his real value in musical notes or development of deep lyrics.

He may have been a flop on stage, but scored big in Zanu PF politics.

During the twilight of the late former President Robert Mugabe’s reign, Mutodi grabbed large tracts of State land and converted them into residential stands. He became a millionaire in greenback terms.

The man started building a political profile, warmed his way into President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inner circle. He became sort of the Mnangagwa’s lightening rod.

Mutodi introduced Zimbabweans to Mnangagwa’s political ambition at that private party now popularly known for the cup branded — I am the boss.

Mutodi milked the moment all he could. The picture went viral and his political stock rose not because he is an eloquent speaker or political strategist, but because of proximity to Mnangagwa.
Mutodi also in a Facebook post announced that a military coup was on the way, a coup that toppled Mugabe and hoisted Mnangagwa to the top.

In the 2018 general election, he snatched a constituency in Goromonzi thanks to MDC’s administrative incompetence of fielding two candidates in the same constituency.

Mnangagwa duly rewarded Mutodi with a junior ministerial post — Information deputy minister.

Mutodi, the failed rhumba artiste, had made it to the political high table. The old adage — a fool and his money are quickly separated — holds true even in politics when one is content-empty and has a misplaced sense of pride. A man who believes that there is no bad publicity.

Being a junior minister with no ministerial mandate, Mutodi thought to occupy himself by living on social media.

He courted controversy, but the man was not intimidated — he lived the here and now — for he had reached his political pinnacle without breaking a sweat.

Mutodi did not respect protocol nor his choice of subjects he would tweet on. In a period of less than 10 days, he made the gaffes that cost him his job.

Mutodi, despite having a doctorate degree, did not appreciate international relations.

He made mockery of Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

After a diplomatic row and an apology from Foreign minister Sibusiso Moyo, Mutodi could not stomach and in an infantile manner, riled at his superior for apologising.

He accused Moyo, the November 2017 coup announcer, of acting like a prime minister.

His second mistake was going to social media and accusing his immediate boss, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa and Moyo of threatening his life.

A few days earlier, he had accused Mutsvangwa and her husband, Chris, of capturing State broadcaster, ZBC.

The tweet went viral, exposing fault lines within a government barely two years in office.

After getting away with the first two indiscretions, Mutodi this week went a notch high by making fun of abduction and torture of three MDC Alliance youth leaders — Joanah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiru and Netsai Marowa. The tweet was in bad taste that it cannot be repeated in a family paper.

Despite Mnangagwa’s patience or lack of decisiveness on reigning sidekicks, the three incidents in a space of a week was the last straw.

The public opinion was strong and building thick and fast that if Mnangagwa did not act, it simply proved Mutodi was the President’s fall guy.

Mnangagwa, in a short letter, dismissed Mutodi from government without proffering any reasons for the decisions, leaving it open to speculation and probably confirming Mugabe’s reasoning that Mnangagwa lacked probity.

For now, the rhumba has been switched off, but for how long will Mutodi lie low even with a promise of rehabilitation as Zanu PF is known for?

Mutodi is not only a loose and misguided missile, and it may not be far off the mark that boredom will soon drive him to sing off-tune what was going on in government corridors.

Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity.

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