Tuku Backstage: When dog bites master

The Book

The Book

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Mtandazo Dube – Leisure Editor

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IT is not uncommon for disgruntled former colleagues, business partners, acquaintances or publicists to write scathing, unauthorised biographies about their rich and famous ex-bosses.

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Take for instance, Tom Bower’s unflattering portrayal of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson in the book “Branson”. Bower went all out in trying to convince that Branson was an opportunistic, heartless and self-centred businessman.

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Bower’s bitterness can be felt from start to finish and Branson was not amused.

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Oliver Mtukudzi, like Branson, has not taken the contents of the book “Tuku Backstage”, by former publicist Shepherd Mutamba, well.

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In a statement after the first excerpts were published in the local media, Tuku complained: “I have been reading with great dismay the excerpts from a so-called biography of me by Shepherd Mutamba…

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“As a man I’m not perfect. I have my strengths and weaknesses, like everyone else, but why would someone write a book, which from what I have read so far has many made up ‘facts’, half-truths and false interpretations of my life? You can imagine the distress that this has caused my family. If he wanted to pull me down, why attack my family too?

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Branson countered by writing his autobiography. Maybe Tuku could be moved to do the same.

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The superstar is currently on tour in the UK and could not be reached for comment and it is unknown if he has read Mutamba’s book, which hit shop shelves last week.

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Sour grapes

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Shepherd Mutamba

Shepherd Mutamba

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Unlike Bower, who was a journalist seeking to tell the “other side” of the “people’s champion” Branson, Mutamba is a former Tuku employee who left his job unceremoniously.

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His book paints a picture of being unhappy while working for the celebrated musician.

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Mutamba’s tone is of a man who is bitter with his ex-boss, whom he accuses of not pay him enough, not recognising his “30 years of experience” as a media practitioner, who did not show him love and was ungrateful of his input.

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What comes out is that Mutamba was envious of his boss’s lifestyle – seemingly forgeting that Tuku toiled for decades to get to where he is.

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Mutamba complains that Tuku was always reinvesting his money. Did he expect him to splash the money on him?

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Take this grumble, for instance: “In truth, Tuku and Daisy would choose instead to plough all the money into unending construction projects at the (Pakare Paya Arts) Centre. Construction took precedence over everything. Besides construction, there is lack of commitment by Tuku and Daisy to prioritise staff.”

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Mutamba, apparently, joined Tuku Music hoping for riches. And when this didn’t happen he probably stuck around long enough to do his hatchet job of a biography.

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Mutamba credits himself for Tuku’s success.

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“Over the years I had developed comprehensive mechanisms for all the media, information and publicity that assisted in uplifting further the Tuku brand…I had played a major part in earning Tuku Forbes Magazine’s twelfth position out of the forty most powerful celebrities in Africa in 2011.

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“Those who made the list were elected on the basis of their media visibility in print, television, radio and online number of web references on Google, and I was responsible for planning and churning out most of the information that went out to the world. I performed professionally, dutifully,” writes Mutamba.

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Double standards

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Mutamba alleges that reporters from The Sunday Mail “stalked and accosted Tuku”; That at one point Tuku “sped off with the reporters in hot pursuit in a dramatic scene that attracted the attention of other motorists and passersby”.

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“The Sunday Mail then went for the grieving mother (Daisy, Tuku’s wife)” and “one of the reporters scaled the wall and hurled questions at her”.

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These are all lies.

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This writer was there with Garikai Mazara and a photographer. Unless all three of us have developed amnesia of some sort – Mutamba is being fictional and sensational, which appears to be the case throughout the book.

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Even the daughters, Selmor and Sandra, who were quoted in this book are querying some of the material.

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Said Selmor: “He (Mutamba) promised me a copy but it hasn’t been delivered but from what I read in the excerpts that were published and what I have heard from friends, I’m quite shocked, it’s just not true, but I need to read it myself first and then give a full comment.”

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That is not all: Mutamba was responsible for persecuting The Sunday Mail Leisure. Yes, persecuting.

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He alone blocked our coverage of Sam’s memorial when Tuku’s son died, prompting us to flee Pakare Paye Arts Centre as he advanced with a team of menacing bouncers.

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He is the one who got political heavyweights to try and block us from pursuing the Selby Mtukudzi story.

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Confesses Mutamba in his book: “We hardly saw signs that The Sunday Mail would relent. We had to stop the newspaper one way or the other. We considered two options, legal and political. The legal rigmarole makes things painfully slow and it was going to take us ages.

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“I was tasked to write, on Tuku’s behalf, straight to the then Vice-President, Joice Mujuru, and to the then Information Minister Webster Shamu and I personally delivered the letters on the 28th of April 2010.

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“Events that took place during the same week of our letters were quite telling. The Sunday Mail had flagged a story, the week before; promising to run an interview it had conducted with a woman it claimed was Selby’s mother. The interview was not published.”

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Mutamba is proud that he used questionable and unnacceptable political means to gag The Sunday Mail.

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Yet he wants to claim righteousness by claiming he tried to stop Tuku from getting the patronage of politicians.

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No, Mutamba, you are no angel, you are no victim – you are an opportunist.

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Mutamba unashamedly dedicates the book to “all artistes and journalists of the world persecuted for the truth. We cannot be silenced because our voices are deafening and permanent”.

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After his own confession of politically interferring with The Sunday Mail, this can only be described as utter nonsense.

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Gripes with President Mugabe

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In retrospect it makes sense that Mutamba roped in Dr Mujuru and Shamu to fight The Sunday Mail, more so in the context of how he tries to scandalise President Mugabe and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe in his book.

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Writes Mutamba: “In March, 2010, Tuku received US$5 000 from the President and his wife, for his son’s funeral expenses. Shortly afterwards, when the propaganda minister offered him free advertising space in the State controlled Press, to announce Sam’s memorial service, I strongly advised Tuku against taking gifts from politicians. (And we find it odd that Mutamba suddenly claims to have problems with “propaganda minister” Shamu when he found it perfectly fine to use this same politician to gag The Sunday Mail!)

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“I actually sat on the advert for two days and did not take it to the minister until Tuku read me the riot act.

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“Tuku’s wife Daisy pays the First Lady private visits. They get along well and she does not hide her admiration for Grace Mugabe.”

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He goes on about Tuku perfoming at a wedding for the First Lady’s son and performing for orphans at the Mazoe orphanage that the First Lady runs.

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Is that a sin?

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Mutamba had his own political leanings that he wanted to foist on Tuku, a man who has made a professional decision to never let his own poltical views – whatever they are – get in the way of his work.

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Did Mutamba want Tuku to fight President Mugabe while at the same time he himself sought the patronage of Dr Mujuru?

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Tuku is no fool.

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He has a publicly stated that he will not get bogged down by the kind of political posturing that sullies Mutamba’s book.

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When Tuku’s daughter Samantha wed Tinashe Nengomasha, the maestro invited Morgan Tsvangirai to the wedding. He also performed at the mock wedding of Tsvangirai and Elizabeth Macheka.

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And Tsvangirai also contributed towards Sam Mtukudzi’s funeral expenses.

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The indictment

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Mutamba tries to discredit all of Tuku’s achievements, all the honours bestowed on him. He pours water on Tuku’s accomplishments in “bringing positive change and wellbeing to people in disadvantaged circumstances”, his recognition by many organisations like Unicef, Concern International, the University of Zimbabwe and the International Council of African Womanism, among others too many to mention.

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He knew that going after Tuku’s music would be a herculean task, because the man is simply brilliant as an artist.

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So he went after his personal life, knowing full well that we can never really know what happens in Tuku’s private life.

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Mutamba last week did not respond to any of the questions we sent to him.

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“We will respond to your questions at the earliest convenience,” he said.