The Sunday Mail
When her cellphone rings, there is temptation to sing along to the melody as it is one of those very popular anthems – the Mai Chisamba Show jingle.
On her office desk lays a very big Holy Bible and Duramazwi, among other literature which defines her identity.
Mai Rebecca Chisamba nee Tsikirayi is a Methodist in Zimbabwe member who has spent the better part of her life promoting progressive cultural values and local languages. She has even coined her own Shona words and phrases.
This phenomenal woman, who turns 65 on October 21st, has touched so many lives through her television talk show – the Mai Chisamba Show – which dissects burning societal issues.
Dr Chisamba is regarded as Zimbabwe’s own Oprah Winfrey.
And that’s not all, letters come in their thousands to her mail box, her email and WhatsApp as people seek her wise counsel. Others come in person to her offices or house. Many faith healers would die to have only half of such a following, pun fully intended.
While she desires to respond to each and every letter addressed to her, she can only do so much and therefore she picks the lucky ones and offers her advice to the downtrodden and the heartbroken free of charge.
But this is not a skill that can be horned overnight. It has been a long journey that started two decades ago in the humble suburb of Highfield.
The late John Sanyahumbi, an uncelebrated gentleman who was a headmaster at a local school, is the man behind the discovery of the gem that was hidden in Mai Chisamba the teacher.
“School broadcasting was my launch pad but l was sort of pushed into it. The Ministry of Education was searching for a radio teacher. Mr Sanyahumbi nominated me to represent our school and to be honest l was not happy about it. For a week, I was furious at him. He actually had to put his foot down before l could hesitantly go for the interactive radio programme’s auditions.”
Well, she went for the auditions with 10 other contenders and the rest is history.
The national television broadcaster also didn’t waste time scooping her for AM Zimbabwe programmes.
An invincible brand was in the making, with indigenous languages being her main thrust.
“It is disappointing to note how most people who think that they have arrived consider abandoning their own language an achievement. The English and the Chinese will never drop their language for anything; you have to learn their language to communicate with them.
“It’s high time we take that stance as well, look at how popular Swahili has become. Language is a form of power.”
And hence the birth of the Mai Chisamba show, formally Today’s Woman in the golden days. Some people will also remember the talk show hostess on programmes such as Masamanisi and Kukwira Gomo Hupoterera that were airing on ZBC.
For 10 years, her star continued shining brighter.
But there came a time when Mai Chisamba had to go it alone, that was in 2007. Considering that ZBC had been her sanctuary for a decade, saying goodbye to the institution wasn’t easy.
“My eyes filled with tears that day when l left my office. These people had been so good in nurturing my talent. I had no equipment and no money; all l had was passion to stand on my own.”
Yet she never looked back. In those early independent but lonely days, Mai Chisamba would record six programmes at once to spread her thin resources. It has paid off.
Feathers to her colorful hat
The past decade has seen her media company spreading its tentacles to corporate functions, weddings, kitchen teas and counseling.
Along the way, she has picked 24 awards and two honorary degrees for her social and philanthropic work.
“There are many of them (awards). Among them, l was awarded Communicator of Zimbabwe in 2003. President Mugabe won that award when he was Prime Minister. So ndakati pfee pamamonya ipapo,” she said with a chuckle.
On October 26th, her company will be celebrating 10 years of existence at a local hotel in Harare.
Romeo and Juliet
When Dr Chisamba is asked about her husband, Mr Arnold Chisamba, she automatically lights up. They call it love, tale as old as time.
“I met him in Highfield. I was a teacher at a local school and so l went with a colleague to buy a soft drink. As l was struggling to open the bottle, this handsome guy asked if he could help. That’s how he started wooing me.
“Back then courtship would take forever, maybe that is why divorce rates were lower than today. We got married about two years later.
The couple has been married for more than forty years now. Their love for soccer draws them closer to each other.
“I am blessed to have vaChisamba as my husband. We go almost everywhere together, especially the night functions and when l’m working out of town. He is my official bodyguard.”
The Chisambas are blessed with five children and four grandchildren.
To borrow from Dr Chisamba’s phrases, vadiwa vaverengi, chiringazuva chedu chabva chatsvuka chikakwata.