Mthabisi Tshuma, Showbiz Reporter
IT’S a Monday morning and Hidden Sibanda dashes off from his Old Pumula residence and heads to the Bulawayo Central Business district to report for work as an electronics technician.
As a father of four and aged 53, he is the sole breadwinner who has a wife who he loves dearly and encourages him to work harder.
Day in and day out, his job is focused on designing, building, troubleshooting, testing, and repairing developmental and production electronics parts, systems and equipment.
He owns a shop at RM Buildings at Babyline Business Centre in the CBD and for many in the general public, he is just a gadget specialist.
His daily schedule is filled with manufacturing PA Systems, church sound installation, club sound, and domestic sound installation.
But away from all of that, he has another life, almost completely divorced from family and his profession where he is a soother of hearts and a darling to many in the social media spaces, mainly the WhatsApp platform.
He is a man with quite a few monikers, each defining his persona.
As ‘Ankela Zex’ he is a comedian, ‘Baba’ is his family name while business colleagues and acquaintances simply call him ‘Mr Sibanda’. All names are aligned to one part of his life or the other.
For many who have never met him, Ankela Zex is the face behind the voice of a landlord and charmer to Samantha owePumula, ilodger – a larger-than-life character that took the internet by storm in 2021. His immense talent saw him being nominated for the Pumula Royal Arts and Community Awards Outstanding Male Comedian Ankela Zex’s satirical sentiments appeal across all characters and religions.
For some though, his jokes are so personal that just a day ago, he was bashed for showcasing his skills.
Saturday Leisure caught up with the very energetic Ankela Zex who delved into his life and how he has lived for over 50 years.
He said his popularity has been enhanced by the continued growth of the digital space where he has been doing his comedy that he defines as phone theatre.
“My birth certificate name is Hidden Sibanda and I’m 53 years of age. My stage name is Zex Mdawini Sibanda Tshuma. I’m into comedy, a new comedy genre that I call phone theatre.
“Zex was born in Bulawayo at Mpilo Hospital in 1969 and grew up partly on the farms near Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport. I left there at age 11 to live in Mzilikazi up to about Form 2 and then I found myself at Njube and finally went to live in Nketa. I grew up in all these locations,” he says softly.
He is adamant that his character is not a copycat, but something that lives in him.
“I’m a natural comedian. From back in the day, I always made people laugh, even at school. However, I started taking comedy seriously around 2013 when I did what I termed ‘One Trip’ where I’d get into public transport and crack jokes throughout the journey.
“It’s here that I started to gather a respected following and got the name Zex. I live in Zakhele Street in Pumula so people started calling me Mr Zakhele and in short, it became Zex,” he said.
Ankela Zex said he has hundreds of skits that played on Khulumani FM, a station that discovered his talent.
“I played my skits and for some time, they gave me a slot every Tuesday on a programme called comic Tuesday thanks to Bra Khesa, Sakheleni Nxumalo and Thokozani Mkandla (Miss Tee). Popular skits are Charge Office, Samantha my Sweetness, which is a series, Intambo Yokuzibophela, featuring Nceku, Abantu Abafitshane, Mamazala, and Mzala among others. I have over 300 skits that are yet to be promoted,” he said.
Adamant of his growth, Ankela Zex says it is time that he goes regional and even international.
Is he the next Skhosana in comedy? It is yet to be seen.
“I’m seeing myself taking comedy above the level of the gurus like Trevor Noah and Steve Harvey. Actually, looking at my content, I think I’m already at that level. My comedy is educational and has a lot of advice and morals hidden in the humour.
“I’m working on the quality of both my audio and video skits. In the not-so-far future, I know I’ll produce movies that will shake the whole world. I’m an actor by calling and that destiny is now calling,” he said.
“My strategy is perfection. I practice in action. Wherever I go, I entertain people. So people don’t only know me from the media but from live performances. If I board a kombi or bus, I do stand-up comedy throughout that journey.
“I’m actually more fun live than I sound on video or audio. Of course, doing comedy on social media helps to promote me because if you check, most of my stuff is recorded in public. It has that originality. Wherever I go people identify me with the Zex they see on the media, so yeah the media helps a lot as well,” he added.
Working the 6 to 6 armchair job and later turning to a funny man in a bus whose charisma is almost of a mad person saw him play unpopular this past week as his jokes were not embraced by some. While performing a skit on lodgers/tenants during his usual stand-up comedy on the bus, he irked some passengers who then assaulted him, accusing him of performing a viral joke that they claimed led to their landlords raising their rentals.
He suffered a swollen upper lip with the case apparently set to be heard in court on Monday.
The comedian said this mishap did not deter him as he vowed to continue doing comedy.
“While I was performing my skits on the bus, some passengers didn’t like it and beat me up. The pain has subsided now and I won’t stop performing for anything,” Ankela Zex said.
His talent has seen him penning inspirational books and doing music.
“Comedy is art, art is creativity. I love anything creative. It’ll surprise many that I write novels too, romantic novels with a fusion of both action, adventure, mystery and horror.
“I’ve written quite a number of them like Linda Truth Dares Zex, Mr Zex Resigns, Hello Dear Diary, Power of Love and Venomous Step Mother. Currently, I’m writing Friday the 13th and one can find soft copies of these on my Facebook Account.
“I’m also into music having done an Amapiano song, Charge Office featuring Freak that was popular on one of the local radio stations. I have another hot song, Basopa Corona which is a soccer commentary of an imagined match between Zimbabwe Health Select versus Covid-19. It also played on popular radio stations.”
Ankela Zex is married with four sons, two of who are grown up and already working.
“I’m a family man. Comedy doesn’t take much of my time because I do it while on the go. When I am at work, it’s serious business and I get to do comedy after work. When I’m at home, I’m a father, but many a time, I use night time to research and plan the next joke,” said Ankela Zex. – @mthabisi_mthire.