The Sunday Mail
— ‘Harare is not Zimbabwe’
— Zhakata’s clean sweep explained
Mtandazo Dube —
COULD “Russia” have interfered with the Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola Top 50 votes where dark horse Leonard Karikoga Zhakata pulled a “Trump” on perceived giants like Alick Macheso and Jah Prayzah?
These seem to be the “findings” by the local music intelligence community (social media fanatics) who believe there are some unclean forces that manipulated votes on one of the most popular radio competitions in the land, Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola Top 50.
For those not in the know, Russia is being accused by the American (US) intelligence community of meddling in the latter’s elections that resulted in Donald Trump winning presidential elections.
Locally, social media has been ablaze with conspiracy theories ever since the results were announced last week. Zhakata made history by having his three songs from the same album in the top three of the Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola Top 50.
There are claims that Emmanuel Makandiwa’s UFIC followers were “forced” to vote for one of their pastors (Zhakata); and then there are beliefs that Radio Zimbabwe and its partners deliberately plotted Zhakata’s win.
Music fans who support other artistes and would have wanted to see them walk away with what Zhakata has — do not believe that the “Mugove” hit-singer commands such support throughout the country as demonstrated by his dominance on the annual radio competition. They argue that he would be filling up stadiums wherever he performs live if he were that popular.
The Sunday Mail Leisure last week sought answers from the stakeholders, among them Delta Beverages, who sponsor the programme through Coca-Cola, Radio Zimbabwe, the singer Zhakata and even from pundits.
In an interview, an official who refused to be named but is involved in the running of the competition, said the people who are shocked that Zhakata won do not understand Radio Zimbabwe’s target audience.
“Radio Zimbabwe enjoys huge listenership in the semi-urban and mostly rural areas. In places like Mt Darwin and Murewa, the station is immensely popular,” he quipped, before bursting, “Do we have to explain this process every year?”
He went on: “Every week we have a top 20 and at the end of every year, it is the sum total of these votes that determine the winner. Nineteen people predicated accurately the outcome of the top five, this should show you that it was obvious who the big winner was.”
The official also explained that there is a system that is used to tally the votes.
“There is a system, a voting platform, where people send their votes. Our auditors audit this system for accurate results,” he said.
Speaking through ZBC spokesperson Firstme Vhitori, Radio Zimbabwe station manager Albert Chekai echoed the same sentiments, emphasising Radio Zimbabwe’s target market and its popularity in Zimbabwe.
“Radio Zimbabwe is the biggest radio station on the land due to the sheer numbers of its listeners. Radio Zimbabwe, as its name suggests, is not a Harare or Bulawayo station, it’s national. It’s nickname ‘Huruyadzo’ (the biggest one), aptly describes its size.”
Giving the example of Tatenda Pinjisi, whose song “Saina” sits on number seven on the Top 50, Chekai said the artiste, who is largely unknown in towns and cities, commands a massive fan base in the countryside.
“From number one to six you have Zhakata and Macheso, those artistes are big and there is no doubt they deserve their accolades. Then comes Pinjisi on seven, beating stars like Jah Prayzah who sits on number 20 — that alone should tell you that Radio Zimbabwe is different.”
In 2016, Radio Zimbabwe started a programme to reconnect with its listeners from across the country by holding road shows in six provinces.
DJs conducting those road shows also expressed their shock on realising how different the tastes of urban dwellers was with that of rural people.
“All the road shows were punctuated by overwhelming attendance by listeners. The Karoi road show of 25 June 2016, around 15 000 people attended; Mt Darwin road show 30 July 2016, over 10 000 people attended; Mutoko road show 24 September 2016, over 20 000 people attended and Gokwe road show 15 October 2016, over 20 000 people attended,” said Chekai.
In an interview with Leonard Zhakata, the artiste said he believes God has just saved his career.
“I’m a Christian, when I pray I believe that sometimes God’s answers don’t come directly to me. If my career was under threat, God instructed my fans to vote so that I get this attention.”
Zhakata said he knew of supporters who mobilised support for him aggressively, to the extent of buying each other airtime, just so that every fan could vote. “Even if our music gets little to no airplay, where there are votes, the fans do all they can,” said Zhakata.
The Zora music exponent said he had learnt a lot of lessons from his massive win this year, which would guide him going forward.
Benjie Nyandoro of Jive Zimbabwe, a proponent of the “support local” campaign, congratulated Zhakata saying “indeed still waters run deep.”
“Although this has come as a shock to many, Zhakata’s more than 200 000 votes for the three songs are testimony to the influence that his music still holds in Zimbabwe.
“Of course, one may wonder where all these people are during his live shows, I guess next to their stereos enjoying a low key life away from the hyper activity and fuss of weekends. This also comes as a pointer to Zhakata, in terms of how best to package and deliver his live performances to these segments. Could there be a more effective way to reach out?”
The number one song “Madam Boss”, which also topped National FM charts, amassed 104 046 votes. “Zvine Mwaka”, which came second, garnered 89 663 votes while “Moyo Wekutenda” received 62 272 votes to occupy third position.
The rest of the top 10 saw Macheso’s three songs “Gungwa” (fourth), “Wandirangaridza” (fifth) and “Mude Mude” (sixth) being joined by Pinjisi’s “Saina” (seventh), Blessing Shumba’s “Matatenda” (eighth), Jefta Muchini’s “Chihera” (minth) and “Vanondibatirana” by Killer T and Fungisai on tenth position.
Zhakata’s success follows the highly-successful album “Zvangu Zvaita”, which scooped the first and second prizes in the same competition in 2014 with hit songs “Dhonza Makomborero” and “Dollar Boy” respectively.
The 48-year-old’s illustrious career has spawned 21 albums, among them “Maruva Enyika”, “Nhamo Dzenyika”, “Vagoni Vebasa”, “Dzave Ndangariro”, “Udza Vamwe”, “Ndingaite Sei?” and “Mubikira”.
The projects produced outright hit songs that saw the artiste fill up stadiums.
No wonder, music fans are baffled by the success of “Mutunga Dzose”, a hit on Zimbabwe’s “biggest” radio station; yet the artiste himself struggles to attract decent crowds when it comes to live shows.