“MAMONYA akatikuvadza baba, vanhu hobho vakapinda mahara (the bouncers cost us big time, lots of people got in for free),” said Dee Nosh of DTL Records, after his Distruction Boyz show at a club in Harare last weekend.
At the recent Thomas Mapfumo Homecoming Big-Bira, rogue bodybuilders-cum-bouncers are said to have pocketed a small fortune too.
The Big-Bira show organisers opted not to sell any tickets at the venue and were unprepared for the hundreds that came to Glamis Arena expecting to pay at the entrance. The doormen feasted.
At Davido’s show last month, a fierce fight broke out as “mamonya” (bouncers) tried to pocket some money.
Even where they have not been hired, mamonya show up and expect to run things at the gate.
They often ask for less than the cover charge and take the money for themselves, leaving organisers with huge crowds but depressed returns.
Many promoters have quit the business — some of them as near paupers.
In the past we have witnessed promoters like Chipaz and Josh Hozheri hiring police services to deal with chaos created by mamonya.
The unhired bouncers have a knack for creating mayhem which allows them to make money in the midst of the confusion.
Proud of their antics, they even name their cars after the gigs that financed the purchase: Ndeyekwa Sean Paul ka iyi, ndeyekwa Beenie Man, ndeyekwa Mukanya (it was bought from proceeds from the Sean Paul, Beenie Man or Mukanya show).
In clubs they are a nuisance.
They ask for drinks from patrons. Others assign themselves unsolicited bodyguard duties to socialites and celebrities and then expect to be paid.
They are a real pain in the behind.
Some clubs have banned them while others allow them out of fear that they might cause disorder outside the club or venue, which is a recipe for disaster as clients do not like anything resembling violence or chaos. The question is: Is it the weak systems like poor ticketing methods, is it pure criminality, or have bouncers become a law unto themselves?
I spoke to some promoters about this. Tellingly, only a few agreed to speak on record.
Veteran music promoter Josh Hozheri says promoters have allowed this “schoolyard bullying to take place”.
“We invest thousands of dollars – so to just allow someone to come and steal like that is unacceptable,” says Hozheri. “Something is also wrong with our police. We pay the police a lot of money but they let us down. There is no show that takes place without a police clearance.
“The police actually prescribe the number of officers they assign to your show depending on potential numbers of people, yet things like that take place and they do nothing about it.”
Benji Nyandoro of Jive Zimbabwe adds: “Before there were proper systems, bouncers were the system. Promoters actually used bouncers to collect money etcetera. When proper checks and ticketing processes were introduced, the bouncers lost their livelihoods. This is why they are rebelling.
“However, what they are doing at events is actually a criminal offence. It is theft and if there is actual proof they can even go to jail. I urge fellow promoters to be clear about who they hire and leave the rest to law enforcers.
“Most promoters are making losses at gigs not because they are not organised but because of some of these rogue muscle maniacs that think because they go to the gym and are big they should reap what they did not sow.
“Let’s not forget that there are sincere bouncers who actually want to earn a living from this. We should identify those and employ them.”
National Police Spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi challenged promoters and musicians to co-operate with the police about who they hire as private security. “The law is very clear, whoever commits a crime should be arrested. However, musicians and promoters move around with these bouncers and there is no clarity as to who is doing what.
“Sometimes after these bouncers harass members of the public or clash with each other when we intervene we hear that they are actually working for so and so. So there should be collaboration and joint efforts for this thing to be dealt with,” says Chief Supt Nyathi.
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