Jaw-dropping – a show promoter’s experience Tongai Mbirimi with Justice Maphosa

Tongai Mbirimi
There are people who when you meet, have a huge impact on your life in so many ways. You start to see things from a different angle altogether.

There are influential people that I have met because of being in the entertainment space. One such person is none other than multimillionaire businessman and philanthropist Justice Maphosa.

I met Maphosa in Johannesburg in 2015 when he was planning and putting together his Gwanda International Gospel Festival first edition. It was a new gospel festival in Zimbabwe in the mining town of Gwanda.

This was going to be a spectacular and prestigious gospel extravaganza in Zimbabwe for the next four years, little did I know at that point.

Our first meeting, I remember it vividly. He had big plans for the festival, the stage, artistes, format of the event and logistics, everything he was planning was big.

I had just met a man with big plans which were, for me, very frightening to even think of. That was to be my first lesson on my encounter with Justice Maphosa.

Think and plan big, you will do big. We clicked and he then put me in charge of hotel accommodation and meals for all the visiting artistes and guests who were to attend the festival, both local and foreign.

I looked at the guest and artiste list and was in shock as there were so many high-profile artistes from South Africa and Zimbabwe including royal family members from some kingdoms in South Africa.

Planning took a rigorous four months, attention to detail was breath-taking.

Things became real when I was dispatched to Bulawayo and Gwanda a week before the event. To my amazement, the stage, sound system and VIP hosting tents were set up already right in the heart of Phelandaba Stadium a week before the event.

Everything was on point at the stadium and everything was big and proper. Logistics were seamless.

A day before the festival started, our guests arrived in style. A chartered Boeing 747 aircraft for the 140 artistes and guests who came from South Africa, and two private jets for the VIPs landed at Joshua Nkomo Airport in Bulawayo.

It was like watching a movie, the glitz and glamour, it was showtime!

In terms of setup and preparations, Maphosa’s setup in the heart of Gwanda was world-class. He went all out in his execution as he is a man of excellence and I remember him telling me that “excellence inspires people”. I was inspired I can confirm.

He had decided to host this praise and worship festival where he was born and raised as also his way of giving back to his community and praising God.

Single-handedly, Maphosa and his team would for the next four years, annually put the town of Gwanda into a standstill, gospel entertainment lockdown as over 15 000 people would throng Phelandaba Stadium to attend the three-day praise and worship extravaganza.

When something new comes to town, locals usually adopt a wait and see attitude. It was different in this case, the preparations were too appetising and the locals were keen to know what the festival was going to be about.

The festival indeed lived up to its billing. A tradition at the festival every year was the 30-minute firework display explosion just before midnight. This literally woke up everyone in Gwanda and the surrounding rural areas including those who had tried to ignore the festival, it was a spectacle.

The economic spillover effect of this Gwanda gospel festival was huge. All lodges/hotels in Gwanda would be fully booked, there was brisk business for supermarkets, bars and restaurants and the empowerment of the ladies in the community to do the catering for the artistes and selling foodstuff to festival-goers. Entertainment and arts is an industry after all.

Some of the amazing acts that graced the festival over the four years were Zimpraise, Rebecca Malope, Hlengiwe Mahlaba, Takesure Zamar Ncube, Dr Tumi, Oliver Mtukudzi and Mathias Mhere. This festival proved and showed me that any corner of Zimbabwe is full of possibilities. The people of Gwanda were blessed.

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