Chinx contributed to liberation struggle, but his words &actions after the war mean that he is not a hero

By Silvanos Mudzvova

Cde Dickson Chingaira Makoni aka Chinx passed away a few days ago. To the loved ones he has left behind, I say, ‘Nematambudziko‘ (Condolences).

In Zimbabwe, norm often dictates that ‘Afa anaka’, loosely translated to ‘better he that has passed’ but implying that no bad thing, nomatter how honest and accurate can and should be said about the dead.

Well, times ought to change and norms ought to change with them. It’s time to call a spade a spade. 

There can be no debate, that prior to 1980, during the days of the liberation struggle that sought to and successfully ended colonial racist rule in Rhodesia, that Cde Chinx fought a good war. His role in motivating the freedom fighters, and the general black populace was key, significant, and he executed it with flying prowess. 

For this he deserves credit to the fullest. But a life is lived in its entirety. Certain questions ought to be posed, especially regarding the later half of his life.

1.      Does Chinx deserve hero status and our sympathy despite his association, affiliation and identification with the brutal Mugabe regime after independence?

2.      Should we celebrate his life knowing he sang violence exalting songs promoting and defending massacres, torture and brutality orchestrated by the regime? 

3.      Given, it will not change anything now that he has passed, shall we continue with the farce highlighted by question 1 and 2? 

I do not believe Cde Chinx deserves my sympathy, your sympathy, nor that of victims of the regime who are still suffering, looking for healing, looking for closure and the many stewing in anger and rage for what they have endured and still are enduring.

A number of names easily come to mind: Terry Ford of Cowrie Farm and the brutal ends he met; Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya who were burnt alive; Tonderai Ndira, who was abducted, had his eye sockets gouged out before he was killed; Patrick Nabanyama who was abducted by war veterans clad in Zanu PF regalia singing songs of Chinx, and never seen again; and so many more known and unknown victims. 

Let’s pause for a thought for the relatives of victims shall we.  How do we celebrate a life of a comrade who sang praises of the regime’s terrorist acts towards its own citizens.

History of Cde Chinx an contributions to the struggle

Chinx started singing at Chigora Primary School, after completing his secondary education he wanted to study medicine overseas but the Smith regime refused to grant him travel documents. He joined the war for Zimbabwean liberation movement in 1975.

In Mozambique, Chinx was deployed to Takawira choir whose duty was to create music in order to boost guerrilla moral during training. 

When the leader of the choir Cde Mhere Yarira was transferred to Tanzania, Chinx took over and renamed the group which was named to honour the late Leopold Takawira to Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army choir ( ZANLA choir).  The change was soon after Mugabe did an internal ZANLA coup.

In 1980, Chinx returned home and joined Ilanga, it is during his time at Ilanga that he proved beyond doubt a true vocalist evidenced by songs; ‘Ngorimba,’ ‘Zvikomborero’ and ‘Nerudo.’ 

The true identity of the composer of the songs has remained a matter mired in doubt and controversy, but the vocal touch by Cde Chinx perfected the songs.

When Chinx left Ilanga and joined Mazana Movement, he continued producing hits namely, ‘Hokoyoyi’ and ‘Vanhu vese vemuAfrica.’ His signature classic, ‘Roger Confirm’ was produced in 1989. It topped the charts on Radio Two’s top twenty for a staggering 23 weeks.  This was Chinx’s greatest year, gaining him popularity and fame which he enjoyed until his death on 16 June 2017.

It should be noted that the success Chinx enjoyed was not linked to his open and direct support of the Mugabe regime and Zanu PF.

Hero goes rogue

At the turn of the new millennium Robert Mugabe engaged in an disastrous self enriching exercise of land grabs. Initially the exercise was declared unlawful, correctly, by Chief Justice Gubay. Mugabe’s war veterans, colleagues of Chinx, inspired by his music stormed the Justice’s chambers, intimidated him into resigning, then proceeded to annex several farms belonging to predominantly white people in an orgy of violence that left several hundreds of thousands of black farm workers stranded, foodless, homeless, and many other black and white people maimed or dead.

During this period, Chinx joined hands with the police band and produced an album titled ‘Hondo Yeminda (War for the land),’ supporting the violence and bloodshed experienced by many Zimbabweans during farm invasions under the guise of the land reform programme dubbed the 3rd Chimurenga.

Chimurenga means war.  Like any war, people lost lives whether black or white. Chinx did not murder anyone directly but he incited violence.

Chinx behaviour can be likened to that of Rwanda’s most famous singers, Simon Bikindi, who was convicted on 2 December 2008 for his direct and public incitement to commit genocide. In its judgement, the criminal tribunal for Rwanda said I quote,

three of Bikindi songs were specifically referred to in the indictment: ‘Twasesereye,’ ‘Nanga Abahutu’ and ‘Bene Sebahinzi.’ The chamber found that all three songs manipulated the history of Rwanda to extol Hutu solidarity. It also found that Bikindi composed with the specific intention to discriminate pro-Hutu ideology and anti-Tutsi propaganda, thus to encourage ethnic hatred“.

This is what Chinx did, the difference being that he was singing against the white man.

He should not have encouraged a violent takeover in his songs. For this reason; I dismiss him from being called a ‘National Hero’

Whose hero?

Beyond Hondo Yeminda

Perhaps some may argue that Chinx was overcome by euphoria. But, that would be devoid of truth. For years after, the rogue Chinx continue aiding and abating a criminal regime.

On 12 August 2012 during heroes’ splash gala at Mupandawana growth point in Gutu, I remember this gala for two reasons:

i)                   it’s my home town

ii)                 Chinx went on stage and said pasi naMorgan Tsvangirai pasi neMDC (down with Morgan, down with MDC) yet it was during the time of a unity government. If he is a true hero, why not promote the unity that was established and agreed upon than to call for disunity at a national event?  Heroes stand for unity, heroes promote unity and heroes sing unity. 

His last song which is worth mentioning, ‘Chauya Chikopokopo,’ is remembered and loved by a lot of Zimbabweans. The chorus of the song, itself especially famous, reads as below, 

                        chaiti chauya chikopo kopo 

                        kutendera kuseni seni 

                        kusimudza mweya wegamba 

But carries a telling few sentences

                        vaMugabe vakanganisa 

                        aihwa havana kukanganisa 

Despite the economic meltdown the country is facing Chinx continued praise singing Mugabe. Chinx saw nothing wrong with Mugabe until his death.

Surely a mentally blinded and seriously corrupted person like Chinx doesn’t deserve to become a national hero. I will not go further and delve deeper into his lyrics and expose his song where he blamed and mocked those born after 1980 born free.

Zimbabwe deserves true heroes to be honoured not because they continued until death to praise and sing for the nonagenarian ailing dictator Mugabe. 

Zimbabweans should learn, mainly artists, that Zanu PF will use whomever until wapera panonaka and dump you.  Chinx was exploited and lost his investment during Murambatsvina.  He was neglected during his sickness and today they will pamper mourners with goodies at the funeral and spread the hero mantra.

Jairos Jiri, Ndabaningi Sithole, Canaan Banana, Cain Nkala to name but a few, unsung but true heroes because they denounced Mugabe’s tyrannical rule, as a result are buried away from the Heroes Acre. Let’s call a spade a spade, singing and praising Mugabe only makes you a hero in Zanu PF albeit short-lived, BUT liberated minds take it like a non-event. it’s a mockery if great and true heroes like Joice Mujuru die and their heroes status is decided by the likes of Grace Mugabe.

If the music of Cde Chinx could encourage, offer solidarity and give strength to comrades during the war in Mozambique how can we today logically argue that it did not encourage and mobilise the Zanu Pf militia that has been murdering opposition supporters over the years?

Yes, Chinx never killed anyone physically just like Mugabe who never pulled a trigger during Gukurahundi but 20 000 people died because of his speeches and messages to the 5th brigade, which means Mugabe  killed more than 20 000 people in Matabeleland. By the same rule of thumb, Chinx contributed to the torture, murder and rapes of many thousand Zimbabweans during the land reform exercise. As such he is no hero at all. 

  • Silvanos Mudzvova is an Arts Activist currently an Artist Protection Fund Fellow at the University Of Manchester.  He can be contacted on email: vhitori@gmail.com