BY VENERANDA LANGA
WHEN retired veteran broadcaster Maguire Godzongere was at primary school, his ambition was to become a teacher, a nurse, a policeman or a land development officer.
But a very popular 1974 radio programme, Jarzin Man, which aired every morning on the then Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation, attracted him to broadcasting, where he was to interview very important personalities, including the late former President Robert Mugabe.
“My first job was in 1973 and I worked for a company called Lewis Construction. I must point out that by coincidence, my first job was located at the then Third Street and Baker Avenue, now Nelson Mandela Avenue. Funny enough, my retirement job at Parliament was also in the same street, Third Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue,” Godzongere said.
After completing his “O” Level studies, his application to join the police force was rejected because he was too short at 1,6m.
“They wanted giants. So in 1974 during my service at Lewis Construction, we were awoken every morning by the Jarzin Man jingle,” he recalled.
“One morning, they flighted vacancies for broadcasters (then referred to as announcers) for Radio Mthwakazi, which was to be established in Bulawayo. I stood out during the auditions due to my fluency in both Shona and Ndebele.”
Born on May 10, 1952 in Makokoba Old Location, Godzongere grew up in West Commonage. He did Sub A to Standard 3 at Mtshede Primary School in Njube high-density suburb.
“I am proud to mention that at that time, my headmaster was the late Josiah Zion Gumede, who was later to become the first black President of Rhodesia (United African National Council).
The late Canaan Banana was the first black President of independent Zimbabwe. By coincidence, Banana was also my principal at Matjinge Central Primary School in Plumtree, where I did Standard 4 to 6,” he said.
He said Gumede was an inspiration as he had married a beautiful nurse, a South African woman, and he also coached them to do drama.
Godzongere recalled the Tshaka Zulu play which Gumede had them stage and a song during the play which spoke about Tshaka’s prophetic words that white men would invade the country.
His high school education was partly at David Livingstone Memorial Mission and Selukwe Chrome Secondary School.
Godzongere boasts having been part of the teams that constructed buildings like Zimnat (then called Bude House in the 1970s) and the Southern Sun Hotel (now Monomotapa Crowne Plaza Hotel) while working at Lewis Construction.
When he joined Radio Mthwakazi in 1974, he met other veteran broadcasters like Harry Nleya, Maplot Jubane, Luke Nkandla, Ferdinand Sibanda, Cephas Chimhanga, Ray Watson Chirisa, Lovemore Chavhunduka, Edward Ndlovu, Clement Maphosa and John Masuku was to join them later.
The veteran female broadcasters at the time, he said, included Julia Shumba, Mavis Moyo and Shiyeka Khumalo.
“I do not know why there were very few females. I went through in-house training because there were no broadcasting colleges, but later acquired a Diploma in Journalism and a Degree in English and Communication,” he said.
Some of the very popular programmes that Godzongere aired on radio were Kwaziso/Ukubingelelana and the music programme Dzandakusarudzirai/Engilikhetele Zona.
Others were Zvinofamba Sei, which looked at prominent Zimbabweans, where he had an opportunity to interview Tizirai Gwata, who later became the first African mayor of Harare and Misheck Sibanda (currently Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet), who was a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe in the 1980s.
Godzongere’s linguistic skills were demonstrated in a programme called Mumatare/Emthethwandaba, where he boasts that he coined words like nharembozha (cellphone), jengeta chando (for fridge) and gwambisa pfimbi (for a freezer).
“These words that I coined became widely used,” he said.
He said the programme ChiKristu Netsika, which was launched by Benjamin Chipere, taught him a lot. The programme juxtaposed Christianity and traditional African culture.
“There were lots of emotions between staunch Christians and traditionalists,” he said.
Another of his interesting radio programmes was Chakapfukidza Dzimba Matenga, propounded by the late veteran broadcaster Jabulani Mangena.
“Some of the stories on this programme were weird. One day, a lady phoned complaining that her husband was a traditionalist. She said he did not want her to bath until he came back from work. Thereafter, he would check her underwear and sniff them to see if there had been no other bull in the kraal while he was away,” he said.
“When other people phoned in to comment, they accused the woman of administering a love portion on the husband which backfired and resulted in such jealous behaviour from him.”
Other experiences included interviewing a homosexual during the 1980s, which was regarded taboo then.
He said the man had demanded to be aired on a live programme, but due to its sensitivity, it was pre-recorded and edited.
Godzongere said he was also one of the first broadcasters to do HIV and Aids programmes at a time when there were huge knowledge gaps about the condition and some of the infected thought they were just suffering from diarrhoea or had been bewitched.
“This programme also fortified many marriages and we had testimonies from many couples that said they were now living in harmony,” he said.
Godzongere said drama production was one of his strengths after attending training in Germany at Deutsche Welle (DW).
“We relied on Colgate Palmolive funding and groups used to stage dramas on radio. In order to include sounds on radio, I suggested that we improvise. For example, for a sound of a person being beaten up, we clapped hands. For a baby Jesus play, we included sounds of a baby crying,” he said.
After his long stint on radio, Godzongere retired in 2002 when former Information minister Jonathan Moyo ordered retrenchment at the State broadcaster.
“I then went into artisanal mining because I come from Shurugwi, but I am certainly not a machete-wielding MaShurugwi,” he said with a chuckle.
“Mining did not work out. I then joined the Parliament of Zimbabwe in 2006, where I have been working as a public relations officer and interpreter. I left on December 31, 2019.”
Married to Lucia Hamandawana Godzongere, a principal nursing officer at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, Godzongere is a father of six — five boys and a girl — and has 15 grandchildren.
“Now I spend most of the time playing with my grandchildren,” he said.
His parting shot: “Broadcasters should not let popularity get into their heads or else they will lose their sense of direction. They should bear in mind that fame is temporary.”