By Loveness Chikozho
The recent tragic news of the alleged murder of Samantha Dzapata by her boyfriend Tafadzwa Murengwa who subsequently committed suicide has left Zimbabweans shocked.
Whether one goes by Tafadzwa’s version, or patches up social media accounts posthumously peddled on behalf of Samantha, this saga appears to have unfolded within the context of a deep-seated social illness popularly known as the “mbinga” syndrome.
Viewed against this background, perhaps the story’s conclusion would be neither sudden nor surprising. It would also not be taken as a passion murder story involving two key players in an alleged love triangle. Instead, the role of Zimbabwean society in perpetuating and condoning the mbinga discourse will inevitably hold all of us accountable.
As a collective, we have gradually shifted towards a tendency to elevate materialistic, attention-seeking personalities. Our huge demand for showy socialists at social events and propensity to shower them with “Likes” enabling their shenanigans to go viral on social media speaks for itself. Consequently, we have normalised celebrating people with deep pockets and shallow values. This is a dangerous trap especially for naive younger generations likely to be easily inspired to become mini-mbingas at schools, colleges and varsities.
Tafadzwa was a prominent young dealer based at the Harare Ximex mall. He was popularly known as “Boss Pangolin”. He did not give himself this nickname. We awarded him this status label amongst other abundant upper-class brand names such as “ChiBaba”, “Chi Mama Mabhanzi”, “Big Dhara”, “Elder” …. The list is long.
It can be rightly argued that society is not responsible for creating personalities and it only labels people according to their self-styled behaviour. But society has an option to either embrace or shun social behaviour and label it accordingly. Instead, we chose to cheer and christen overnight amassment and public show-off of wealth with laughable totems.
As we settled for this somewhat comic response, we sadly encouraged self-destructive values such as pride and vanity, driven by get-rich-quick criminality. Our hero-worshipping tendencies also created entitled beasts. This poses a threat to long-cherished Zimbabwean principles of hard work, financial discipline, investment in lasting generational wealth and safeguarding the sanctity of life.
Suffice to say that socialite Mai Rebecca Chisamba once featured on her Facebook show castigating this construction of colloquial celebrity labels. She lamented the burdensome and toxic implications of these empty aristocratic badges.
The unwritten social expectations accompanying these majestic names are equally grand. Mbinga job descriptions include, among other things, the following trends: frequent slaying in exclusive fashion brands, hosting five-star parties, owning a fleet of latest fast cars and spoiling women rotten. Maintaining the badge of honour also entails consistent and spectacular winning of battles against Pangolin wanna-bees likely to challenge one’s defined mbinga territory.
In keeping with the above social script, Boss Pangolin might have felt obliged to urgently demonstrate that despite losing Samantha, he remained the invincible Ximex mbinga. In true mbinga style, he is said to have thrown free US dollars at a cheering crowd at Ximex mall on a Thursday, just a day before allegedly killing Samantha. It appears he had a reputation to maintain. One can only imagine what brand-new idolizing names emerged as fans and passers-by rushed to pick free-falling greenbacks?
As to be expected, the incident went viral. Then it was business as usual at Ximex mall. No one bothered to question or make a fuss about Tafadzwa’s mental and moral health. This raises questions towards our collective moral integrity: How did we allow broadcasting of bank notes to become normal and unquestionable in Zimbabwe? Why is it such a deified act to the extent we celebrate ‘men of God’ who dish out cash in streets and perform bizarre money-making miracles?
The common answer is that Zimbabwe has undergone unprecedent economic crisis that has altered its social values. That is uncontested. But it must still be said that by glossily naming mediocrity, we cherished it and recruited our youngsters into the toxic blesser field once associated with disdained rich old men. In Tafadzwa’s last public audio, he appears to expect our sympathy as he narrates how he tenaciously splashed gifts to his girlfriend and her entire clan.
According to Tafadzwa in the above-mentioned audio, in spite of allegations of persistent infidelity on the part of Samantha, he went on a voluntary gift buying spree to save their relationship. This included criss-crossing the country on romantic holidays and going on lavish crisis management visits to Tafadzwa’s future-in-laws. Tafadzwa saw his relationship challenges through the mbinga lens we helped to craft and condone. He, therefore, employed a mbinga strategy whereby material gifts were supposed to help him scare away competition and win back affection. Unfortunately, this did not work in real life. But then for a mbinga, failure was unacceptable. Used to a mbinga code entitling him to having the final say, he decided he had the right to end the story in tears.
Apart from mbingaism, there could also have been other factors that contributed to this tragedy. However, based on Tafadzwa’s final audio, there is no doubt that he felt entitled to dating Samantha to the extent that she had no right to live because she owed him. In fact, in his fictitious mbinga psyche, he foresaw the story ending with him eloping to another country and starting afresh!
That we hear a 29-year-old man publicly admitting to committing a heinous crime and further conveying his unremorseful plans for the future in a shockingly casual tone is in itself highly insulting. It could be possible that when we regularly cheered him and made him viral, we might have misled him into thinking he was a protagonist starring in a James Bond movie. So, he probably thought it was normal to give his audiences the usual weird trendy-worthy feedback.
Our cultural role as society in labelling behaviour, vetting entrenched values, making meaning of life and constructing images of heroes matters. In this saga, our unintentional promotion of shallow values helped to dig early graves for Tafadzwa and Samantha.
Loveness Chikozho is a social commentator with a broad interest in topical Zimbabwean social issues. She has an academic background in Media and Communication.