The healing power of recognition: Jeys Marabini’s rejuvenation after Presidential visit President Mnangagwa and Jeys Marabini at State House in Bulawayo

 Raymond Jaravaza, Zimpapers Politics Hub

“MR Jeys Marabani, you are about to meet the Head of State, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Dr Emmerson Mnangagwa”.

The above words, uttered by a Government official moments before a door leading into a spacious room at State House in Bulawayo was opened, still echo in the mind of musician Jeys Marabini whenever anyone asks him to relive that moment when he met President Mnangagwa — one-on-one — for the very first time.

Marabini, born Majahawodwa Ndlovu, says he couldn’t resist pinching himself just to make sure it wasn’t a dream, when he walked into the room and in that surreal moment realised that he was meeting the Head of State in person, with no other official present. For a man who comes from humble beginnings and fell in love with a guitar at an early age — an instrument that has been his trusted companion for the last 30 years — Marabini never in his wildest dreams imagined he would one day get an invitation to meet the Head of State and Government, and Commander of Zimbabwe’s Defence Forces.

“I met the President when I was not feeling well and the one thing that really surprised me was how His Excellency even knew that my health was failing because I had not made that information public. There was a time when I was invited to perform at an event organised by the National Arts Council in Harare and I told them that I was not feeling well, so I guess maybe that’s how word spread that Jeys Marabini was not in good health.

 “Nevertheless, I was surprised that the President was concerned about my health and that he wanted to see me in person. I was really touched by that gesture coming from the Head of State to check on the health of an artiste, not even a politician or diplomat, but just an artiste — Jeys Marabini,”

Marabini performs at State House in Bulawayo

How did his day begin before he met President Mnangagwa?

The day was Saturday, 9 July 2022, and the musician was at home in Nkulumane suburb in Bulawayo when his kids informed him that there were people in three big cars looking for him.

“They said we have been sent by the President, he wants to see you. I was told to be ready by 4pm and I was driven to the State House where there were some important people also waiting for their turn to see His Excellency.

“I was treated very well. I was given food and refreshments; it was really nice because I felt valued while waiting for my turn to see the President.

“The guy who was in charge of letting people in to see the President came to me and said ‘Jeys, make yourself comfortable, your turn to see the President will come’. It must have been around 5.30pm and that official came back and told me it was my time to go in. I still remember those exact words when he told me that it was my time to go in and meet His Excellency.

“I walked into this big room and President Mnangagwa was sitting on the far end and suddenly I just stood there motionless. I didn’t know what to do or say, I simply froze. Remember I was standing in front of the President of Zimbabwe and it’s not every day that anyone gets that opportunity,” he said.  Still star struck that he was indeed standing in front of the First Citizen, Marabini says he was jolted back to reality by the soft voice of the President who told him to come closer and sit next to him.

“He spoke in IsiNdebele and told me to come sit next to him. The President asked me about my health, the time I started not feeling well and generally how I was coping with my health. I was so touched that the President of the nation was concerned about my health and we talked about a few things in general. At that moment, I truly felt that I was talking to someone who was genuinely concerned about my well-being,” he said.

Marabini performs at State House in Bulawayo

Marabini had been struggling with haemorrhoids for the best part of the last decade while a scan also revealed that he had an inflamed spleen.

Even though he had over the years managed to play through the pain and fulfil his artistic obligations despite his health issues, the unexpected invitation to meet the President left him feeling rejuvenated.

The President was particularly concerned about who was taking care of Marabini at home and the response he gave the Head of State would lead to events that showed the musician the other side of the First Citizen.

“When I told the President that my wife was a teacher in Hwange, he immediately said ‘No, no, no that’s not right, a man who is not feeling well must be under the care of his wife’ and an official was told to make sure that my wife’s transfer to work in Bulawayo was sorted out without delay. I came out of the meeting a different person,” he said.

The illness had a toll on Marabini’s finances and he told the President that despite the financial difficulties he didn’t want to turn into a beggar. 

“I told the President how I had been struggling financially since 2012 and that all my savings had been going towards my medical bills. I told him that I had been silent about my situation because I didn’t want to go around with a begging bowl. I told him of my mounting bills and he said he would help where he could,” he added.  Fast forward to 2024, Marabini is back doing what he knows best — music. Last month, another visit to the State House, this time to perform at a state dinner hosted by President Mnangagwa for his visiting Kenyan counterpart, President William Ruto.

“I felt honoured performing for two Heads of State. Performing for President Ruto was a confirmation that my own President trusted my ability to show the Kenyan visitors that Zimbabwe has talented artists.”

The following morning, a Harare-based businessman Wicknell Chivayo, charmed by Marabini’s performance, gifted the musician with a Toyota 4×4 vehicle.

“I had no idea Chivayo was at State House that night because when we are on stage, the stage lighting sort of makes it difficult to see who exactly is sitting in the crowd. I would like to thank Chivayo for the gift that he gave me. My word of advice to young musicians is to work hard, be patient and stay patriotic to your country and good things will come your way,” said Marabini. 

 

 

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