ZIMBABWEAN businessman and Bigtime Strategic Group founder — Justice Maphosa, who grew up in the small mining town of Gwanda before relocating to South Africa in his teens — has opened up on the founding of the Gwanda Gospel Festival in 2015.
Below he speaks to The Chronicle’s Showbiz Correspondent Bongani Ndlovu.
Q: Who is Justice Maphosa?
A: This is a son of the soil, a Zimbabwean man born in the dusty township of a mining town — Gwanda, but raised in South Africa for the greater part of his adolescent years to present day. He is married and has children. He is also the founder and group chief executive officer of Big Time Strategic Group South Africa which also operates in Zimbabwe.
Q: Tell us more about the Big Time Strategic Group.
A: My business portfolio in South Africa is huge, vast and diversified. We are in ICT, aviation, properties, project management frame work and farming.
Q: What inspired you to host the Gwanda Gospel Festival?
A: I am grateful for what God had done for me and the battles He had taken me through. I wanted to do the festival in Durban, but then everything you want to do in South Africa, you’ll realise somebody or other people are already doing it. So I asked myself, ‘who else needs this the most. Who is thirsty for this’, then I decided that ‘charity begins at home’, let me go back home to my country which needs this right now. Zimbabwe needed good stories, good shows and God. At that stage (2008), there was drought, no food and water, and at that time, the country was going through a lot of issues. This is when this idea was crafted. So I approached the powers-that-be in Gwanda and the Brethren in Christ Church – which is the one that I grew up attending. I then said, what else can we do for God which is important to thank Him, which will become a living symbol where when you look at it, you say we did that to thank God; that pillar. I realised the first thing I needed to do was honour God so I decided to build a church and after building the church, I would honour God there. And then I would also make sure that because the church cannot take 5 000, 10 000 or 20 000 people, we will have a show at Pelandaba Stadium on Friday, Saturday and on Sunday, it will all end in the house of God that I have built to honour God and worship him.
I was born in a very poor family and believed that I shouldn’t be the person that I am, but instead, I should be a garden boy. I should be someone selling fruits on the streets, not that I look down on those people, but I am saying, I should not be who I am. If you look at life, at times you realise that it will pin you to the way you were born. But God has blessed me to be what I am today so we need to honour Him. This is how the Gwanda Gospel Festival was born.
Q: When did you launch the Gwanda Festival?
A: If I reverse the clock, it’s 2015. We have done it twice now; this year is our third festival. Gwanda is an altar now. We want Gwanda to be the altar for the whole of Zimbabwe where people can converge to praise and worship for free.
Q: In light of your vision for the gospel festival, have you achieved what you set out to do three years ago?
A: I have not achieved it as yet because the Gwanda Gospel Festival will be an annual event for many years to come. It’s my offering and tithing to God and a way of celebrating my success with the people of Zimbabwe.
Q: Where do you get the funding from?
A: We sponsor these events as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility and funding comes from our companies in South Africa.
Q: What challenges have you faced in hosting the gospel festival?
A: Some of the challenges we face in hosting and organising the event include clearing the trucks from South Africa which will be carrying equipment we hire including sound, stage and lighting. Also, the clearing of performing artistes from South Africa is a nightmare.
Q: Considering that you grew up in Gwanda and host a festival there every year, how is the community benefitting?
A: There are a lot of things that are happening. We have built a church, like I said earlier on. Pelandaba Stadium has been painted for the first time since it was built in 1965 and now has state-of the arts toilets. Everything we take to Gwanda, we don’t take away. There’re a lot of other initiatives like the renovation of schools and other than that we are bringing in “things” to Gwanda. Imagine all these people coming from everywhere to attend the festival.
They need to eat and where do they eat — Gwanda. They need to sleep where do they sleep — Gwanda. They need to fill cars with petrol where do they do this — Gwanda. They need to buy a jersey because your wife left a jersey in Harare, where do they buy — Gwanda. Your child sees an apple, they want it, who benefits, the entire population of Gwanda. So in terms of the economic spin offs out of this show, it’s enormous.
What we are just hoping is that the powers-that-be, the town council of Gwanda, the Mayor and everybody else who’s got power needs to piggy back on this. My wish is that this becomes a serious event on the calendar of Matabeleland South because you will never see Gwanda stop and stand still. Gwanda stands still at the time.
Q: Which artistes are performing at this year’s festival?
A: This year we have Oliver Mtukudzi, ZimPraise, Mahendere Brothers, Mbungo Stars, Tholakele Dlamini, Knowledge Nkiwane and Judith from Gwanda. People like Tholakele, Nkiwane and Judith are another reason why I chose to host this festival in my home town because this is a platform for them to get exposure. Where else will they be seen by 30 000/40 000 people? Where else will they be seen on national television by millions of people if it were not for this event? The answer is nowhere, so we’ve provided an opportunity where every child of God comes to this altar.
Q: Why is Oliver Mtukudzi, an artiste who is more synonymous with secular music, on the line-up?
A: It comes from the collaboration he did with ZimPraise on track Hear Me Lord (I am feeling low). We used it last year for our adverts and it was also a signature tune. People need to understand that all artistes, whether they are into kwaito, rhumba, or whatever genre, deep down, it’s printed in your heart that you need God. Usually, people need God more when they are in trouble and we are saying ‘let’s not wait for that time to need God when we hit trouble’.
Oliver Mtukudzi in that song (Hear Me Lord) shows that he is indeed a Christian in his mind and heart. If you ask him, the way he explains it in that song, he says all of us go through trials and tribulations and at that point you realise, this is a meeting, an appointment with God.
Q: What’s in store for people attending the festival?
A: I’m guaranteeing a show they’ve never seen before. There will be seasoned musicians from Zimbabwe and South Africa performing. Every year, we double our efforts to worship God. I’m testing God to see if he will not open up the store houses of heaven and shower me and the people of Gwanda and Zimbabwe at large with blessings that we will not be able to contain. Last year, we went there to pray for rain and I would like to believe that God listened and there was abundant rain in Gwanda and the rest of the country.
Last year, we even had the Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri who preached there for almost four hours. Those that don’t know the other side of Commissioner General Chihuri, he is also a saved man, a man of God, a preacher himself. This is how we are trying to unite the whole of Zimbabwe around God because whether you a mere businessman, we all seek God in one way or the other.
Q: Last year you partnered the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), are they part of the festival this year?
A: Definitely. I like Comrade Karikoga Kaseke. He is a very sober-minded individual who is truly Zimbabwean at heart. When we approached them, they helped us a lot, including my very own friend, Cde Minister Walter Mzembi. They assisted us a lot with the hosting of the show last year by branding it to be what we wanted it to be, an international show which attracts everybody from all walks of life and I’m grateful. We’ll still be working with the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and the ZTA who are still our partners. They are fellow Zimbabweans who think the same way as us. Their trade and field is tourism which works well for eco tourism as well as religious tourism which leads to other forms of tourism. You might come today to worship and love something and tomorrow you will be back again and bring your children because you want them to see the very same things you saw – thereby boosting tourism.
Q: How much is it to attend the festival?
A: We don’t care where you come from; you will get in for free as long as there is space. You get in for free and worship the very same God who is for all of us.
Q: Do you have plans to spread the gospel festival to other parts of the country?
A: At the moment it remains a present and a gift for the people of Gwanda as it is my place of birth.
Q: How can artistes who want to be part of the event participate?
A: We try and provide equal opportunities for all artistes but, however, we cannot accommodate everyone on one stage. Artistes who desire to be part of our events and shows can express their interest to participate by getting in touch with us at our Big Time Strategic Group offices across the country.