BY TAPIWA ZIVIRA/ DEMMETRIAH MANYONGA
A former manager of Chimurenga music legend Thomas Mapfumo’s Blacks Unlimited, Cuthbert Chiromo, has been dragged into the controversial fallout between Mapfumo and his former spokesperson Blessing Vava and Entertainment Republic boss Max Mugaba.
Mugaba’s company was partnering Mapfumo’s Chimurenga Music Company (CMC) in a series of shows the United States based crooner held last December across the country, and according to a contract signed by the two, Mugaba was to foot all the expenses and get 25% of the net profit.
Mukanya has, however, accused Mugaba and Vava of “fleecing him” of the proceeds and in a recent interview with a local publication, the 73-year-old musician, who is due to fly out to his base tomorrow, said “Max and Vava disappeared with the money” after every show.
The Standard Style last week ran an analysis of several factors — economic and logistical — that resulted in poor attendances at Mukanya’s shows, and this week, we unravel the backstage tussles that left both Mukanya and Mugaba poorer, and dragged Chiromo and other unnamed individuals into the matrix.
According to a copy of a contract between CMC and Entertainment Republic, the two companies, working as a joint venture, agreed to “pool resources and expertise for the production of live music shows in Zimbabwe up to January 4, and to share the ‘net profit with Mukanya due to get 75% and Mugaba 25%.’
This was unlike other arrangements where there is a promoter who manages shows and invites an artiste to perform for a flat fee.
In the case of CMC and Entertainment Republik, there was an agreement to share profits or the burden of losses in the event of such happening.
Vava refused to comment on details regarding the fallout and referred all questions to Mapfumo’s manager Austin Sibanda.
“I appreciate the time, honour and opportunity Mukanya gave me to work with him as his publicist. It is unfortunate that it has ended this way, I hope one day we will find each other,” Vava said.
Documents in the possession of The Standard Style indicate that the shows, which were poorly attended, resulted in huge losses.
Speaking from the US, Sibanda confirmed that the shows had not made the anticipated profits.
“We have the documentation that shows there was actually a loss. We have had a great working relationship with Mugaba and I can confirm that instead, we actually owe him money, not the other way round,” Sibanda said.
According to documents showing returns from ticket sales, the amounts of revenue realised were paltry.
At the Mutare show, held on December 21, a total of 600 tickets were issued and 442 were sold at a value of $8 924, while the expenses, which included a sound system supplied by one Nyasha at $5 000, stood at $9 370, leaving a loss of $446.
At the show held at Club Hideout on New Year’s Eve, only 356 of the 645 issued tickets were sold, and the show realised revenue totalling $3 065 (bond), US$150 and R500, and does not show the expenses incurred.
From the Kadoma show, total revenue of $1 935 (bond), US$893 and R500 was realised and the document does not show the expenses, and in Bulawayo, less than 200 people attended the show held at Large City Hall.
A source close to the developments revealed that as a result of the failure of the tour to attract huge numbers, and the subsequent decision to reduce the ticket prices, Mugaba was left counting huge losses.
Having committed to pay for Mapfumo’s accomodation in Harare, Mugaba has since signed an acknowledgement of debt document seen by The Standard Style.
In the document, Mugabe commits to pay $1 980 before February 12 to Patricia Gunda “in respect of a verbal contract for the hire and use of premises” and has since handed over a Mercedes Benz Atego 815 truck to Gunda as collateral.
Another document from Click and Pay, a company that was partly handling ticket sales, shows they managed to sell tickets worth $8 338 against their operating expenses of $18 990,97, and are owed about $10 000.
“Things were not well financially and at some point Mukanya’s fans had to chip in to provide some things that were needed,” said a source.
Sibanda said after realising that the shows were not attracting the needed numbers, largely due to the economic pressures the country was going through, he suggested that the tour be cancelled, but Mukanya insisted that the shows had to continue.
Sources said that as the tour was failing to attract returns, Chiromo then came in.
Chiromo was Mapfumo’s manager from the early 2000s when the musician left for the United States.
According to sources, Chiromo, who remained in Zimbabwe, was handling Mapfumo’s properties and affairs, including the controversial issue of Mapfumo’s five vehicles impounded by police in 2000.
The two reportedly had a fallout and at that time, Mukanya allegedly accused Chiromo of abusing a power of attorney to sell Mapfumo’s Mt Pleasant house.
However, in an interview on Friday, Mapfumo said he is the one who instructed Chiromo to sell the house.
Sources indicated that Chiromo was unhappy about the way he was fired by Mapfumo, and he believed Vava and Sibanda, who subsequently took over to manage Mapfumo, were behind his ouster.
“So, as Mukanya was failing to come to terms with the losses incurred during the shows, Chiromo was one of the people who came from behind the scenes, and influenced Mukanya to lash out at Vava and Mugaba,” said the source.
However, Chiromo said he was not involved in what was happening. He said on the day Mapfumo gave his interview, they had had a meeting at Harare Town House “on other matters and we wanted to go for dinner so, Mapfumo wanted to go to the newspaper.
“I would not refuse to drive him to where he wanted to go. I do not need anything from Mapfumo, I worked with him on big projects. I have bigger things to do than be embroiled in petty fights. I even warned Mapfumo that their shows were disorganised and being a big brand he should not have done such shows.”
Mapfumo confirmed he was working with his former manager, but the veteran musician said it was not related to his music.
“Cuthbert is someone we work with, but in a different capacity. He is someone who just assists us, but not related to music,” said Mapfumo.
Asked about the status of his current manager Sibanda, Mapfumo said: “I am yet to talk to Austin because he is back in the United States. I will only talk to him when I return to the US.”
Mugaba said the returns did not come as anticipated.
“From my side I met all my obligatons. I feel for him as a muscian who may not understand the management side of events, and I understand there are people who have surrounded him, and influenced him to sideline his original band members. I was surprised that at the Glen Lorne house where we were renting for him, there were now many people going there, with some even staying there,” Mugaba said.
“I have great respect for Mapfumo, mudhara wedu [he is our old man]. Remember when he came in April, we did his show and I paid him $55 000 in hard currency, so there is no way I would fleece him, why would I do that?
“The arrangement was that the shows would pay for themselves, and it did not happen as expected because of the economic problems in the country. At one show I had also suggested that they do not continue to perform, realising it would be a loss, but Mudhara insisted,” said Mugaba.
Mugaba said he was updating Mapfumo’s management all the way on critical payments that had to be made to service providers.
“Most of payments to service providers were arrangements as we hoped to pay after proceeds from the show, but it did not happen as such, so I am in debt, and I am making efforts to pay.”