7 May 2018
…from rags to riches and rags again
A FRAIL-LOOKING Lawrence “Bhonzo” Simbarashe is perched on a makeshift bench at Mr Maplanka Warehouse in Tynwald reflecting on the past this other year.
His star-struck fans doing their errands at the usually sleepy complex ask for photographs with him.
Others can hardly notice him as the actor who once graced their TV screens as he has fallen on hard times with misfortune trailing him like a shadow.
Moments later, he takes this reporter down memory lane talking about the wealth he once amassed.
As bubbly as ever, he recalls the lavish lifestyle he once led, his love for booze, women and of course fun.
Bhonzo also brags about the fleet of more than nine or so vehicles he once parked at his Chitungwiza house even though he can hardly afford to buy a bicycle.
To a stranger, it would sound like bar talk where ‘liars’ are known for running the show.
But to those who have known him, they will tell you Bhonzo was once a rich fella.
As we converse under the shed, he never regrets squandering the wealth he once acquired at the height of his career.
Bhonzo advises young celebrities on the need to learn one or two things from him to ensure they don’t fall in the same trap.
He also brags he once owned a fleet of nine or so vehicles even though he could hardly afford a dollar or 50 cents for kombi for errands in the capital.
A pale figure of the once bubbly Bhonzo who used to win hearts of many a viewer on the small screen with his witty jokes in ‘Timmy NaBhonzo’ series, the towering comedian is in deep trouble.
A few months down the line as the singer plans his comeback on the small screen, his voice fails him.
He even tries his luck at this other popular prophet’s church to help him regain his voice without success.
At the time he is trying to bounce back, his house in Chitungwiza is reduced to a shell in an inferno.
Well-wishers try their best to help him but still he finds the going tough.
At the Herald House, the no nonsense security at the foyer would guarantee him free access to H-Metro.
And all he wants once he visited my working station was either a copy of the newspaper or 50 cents bus fare for him travel to Chitungwangwa, as he prefers calling his hood.
During all these errands, we was yearning for an emotional comeback.
This is despite all the misfortune, which haunted him.
He had a broken family scattered around the globe, losing his only shelter and of course the voice failing him dismally and making it ultimately impossible to make a comeback.
In other words, it was Bhonzo’s voice which died first before his soul joined the great band in the sky.
This is the Bhonzo (Lawrence Simbarashe) that I have always known and interacted with in my career as a journalist.
His life can best be summed as that fairy tale of someone who made it from ‘rags to riches then back to rags again’.
And hearing that he had died in Chitungwiza last weekend, it was a bitter pill to swallow considering the brave fight he had put in fighting misery.
Bhonzo had led by example by opening up on his life and we all drew some life-changing lessons from him.
While Bhonzo is gone, his legacy still lives on. Celebrities and would-celebs need to learn one or two things from the departed entertainer.
And one thing we have to take seriously is to invest wisely and stick to our families.
In the case of Bhonzo he is on record having squandered all his riches on booze and women.
And now that his voice had gone at the time of his death, it was hard for him to make a comeback without the same voice.
With a broken family which saw him getting married twice and staying apart from some of his children, at least according to him, Bhonzo failed to unite his family.
Bhonzo might not be alone in this predicament as many a celeb usually die paupers due to failure to manage their riches and failure to handle fame.
The veteran actor’s predicament has also come as a lesson to celebrities that there is need to engage professional managers or handlers to handle their affairs.
With all the sound education he boasted and creativity he had as guitarist, multi-media technician and comedian, Bhonzo fought his battle but the showbiz industry goes on.
Now that fellow artists have learnt one or a thing from Bhonzo’s demise, the arts regulatory bodies need to conduct a series of workshops on how to manage their finances and fame.
Failure to do so has led to some celebrities regretting for their rest of their lives while the arts sector has been tainted by such icons.
To the crop of young celebrities, it’s also high time they not only make hay while the sun shines but also manage their affairs in a professional manner.
As we bid farewell to Mdhara Bhonzo, it should be noted that the arts sector has lost an icon.
May his spirit rest in eternal peace!