FEBRUARY 25 will indeed be a day to cherish for NewsDay Life & Style correspondent Nyadzombe Nyampenza after he was adjudged the Outstanding Journalist (Print) category at the country’s premier awards, National Arts Merit Awards (Namas) held at Harare International Conference Centre on Saturday.

NewsDay is the daily flagship for Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), the largest privately-owned media house in Zimbabwe, which also publishes The Standard, Zimbabwe Independent, Southern Eye and operates Heart & Soul Broadcasting Services (HStv).

At the awards ceremony, AMH had two nominations for Nyampenza and Khumbulani Muleya, who represented HStv/The Standard.

The Namas are organised by the country’s arts mother body, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ), which was established through an Act of Parliament in 1985.

“I would like to thank NewsDay for giving me the platform and space to publish my stories. I also want to express my gratitude to several institutions that host visual art from where I get some of my stories. Thank you, Nama, for the recognition,” Nyampenza said.

This year’s awards ceremony was more of a red-carpet event. The red carpet was scheduled to begin at 1530 hours, but was delayed by almost two hours.

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Nominees who had arrived at the set time had to wait in their cars, while those who were dropped off had to wait in the main auditorium where songbird Feli Nandi, born Felistus Chipendo, was rehearsing with her band.

At around 1700 hours, those who were not part of the staff, but seated in the auditorium, were asked to exit the room and they had to wait for another 30 minutes outside before action began on the red carpet.

When the event finally started, Yahya GoodVibes, real name Mitchel Mutongwizo, and Nomagugu Ncube looked stunning on the red carpet in their designer dresses.

Among those who made heads turn was comedienne Mai Titi (Felistas Murata Edwards) and socialite Madam Boss (Tarisai Chikocho).

Mai Titi was dressed in a purple dress which had a long and well-decorated tail designed by Tapfumanei Munenge.

The dress was decorated with a cute little sparkling bow for the event.

Madam Boss was dressed in a royal blue long slit dress, designed by Ivhu Tribe, which had a dramatic tail and revealed her baby bump.

This year’s Namas were well organised in terms of sitting arrangements and nominees were given the respect they deserved since it was their night.

One could actually see the demarcation between the VVIP, which had security on both exits, and the VIP side, if one was either presenting an award or a nominee, they had no access into the VVIP section.

The awards’ opening performance was done by Feli Nandi followed by Mwenje Mathole (Liberty Mathole). The duo took their performance to another level as they performed their duet Mboni.

Unlike last year when people had to wait for eternity before the winners were announced, this year it was a bit earlier soon after mbira princess Hope Masike and Juntal (Farai Serima)’s performances.

In her address, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry encouraged artistes to tell the Zimbabwean story and acknowledged how helpful artistes have been in the fight against drug abuse.

“The ministry’s push this year is that we want Zimbabwe to tell our stories, to unite the nation through our arts industry. We want people to be proud to be Zimbabwean,” she noted.

“We have such incredible young talent coming through and we know right now our young people are being challenged and have many difficulties when it comes to drug and substance abuse at the moment and we have been leaning on our artistes and sports people to inspire youth to believe in Zimbabwe.”

Dancehall chanter Freeman, born Emegy Slyvester Chizanga, scooped a double, the Outstanding Male Musician and Outstanding Album gongs.

Singer Tavonga Leo Magozz also had a double, Outstanding Newcomer and Outstanding Song of the Year.

Comedian Theophilus “Mai Kirifodhi” Chigumira also won big, Outstanding Social Media Skits and the People’s Choice award, beating sungura king Alick Macheso, Mark Ngwazi, Freeman and gospel singer Dorcas Moyo.

Interestingly, when Mai Kirifodhi was announced winner of the People’s Choice award, people shouted that Winky D (Wallace Chirumiko) should have been the recipient of the award even though he was not even part of the nominees.

Kuda Brian Bwititi, who directed Intab’enkulu, scooped the Outstanding Screen Production (Television) gong and before he could find his seat, he was called up again as winner of the Outstanding Screen Production (short length film) for the film 3 Days in March.

The Outstanding Female Musician gong went to gospel singer Moyo, while some guests rooted for Feli Nandi.