"We were planning to bring Michael Jackson to Zimbabwe" – Chiyangwa

He was a global phenomenon and it can tell by how the world media is obsessed by his death — celebrating a life well lived.

There are so many positives to take out of Michael Jackson’s life, not least that he did not see black or white, probably the reason why he did the song of the same title. Michael Jackson was big in China, when China was still China, he was big in Russia, in spite of the language barriers.

Michael Jackson was big in Indonesia, big in India, in Pakistan (even if he had said as part of This Is It he was to perform in Swat Valley, he was going to pack them in), he was big in Brazil — you could just go anywhere in the world and the Jackson fever was on.

He came here in 1998 as a guest of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and I was asked by Colonel Tshinga Dube to drive him around. I had just bought my BMW 750i and it was like the car of the moment then. So when Michael Jackson got a ride in my car, he was mesmerised, I remember him arguing with his manager why he did not have that kind of car. It was back in the day — 1998 it was — and the car had video monitors at the back seats and I had videos of him playing and he was very impressed.

The car also had phones and I remember some DJ phoned from Radio 3 wanting to talk to him and his manager refused as they were not taking any interviews. The car just blew him out of this world and he demanded that when they got back, one should be bought for him — that was Michael for you.

What I also found touching was his personality, he was a down-to-earth character, true, he would not hurt a fly. The softness in his voice was the same softness as his personality, but he was as shrewd as any businessman would come.

He came to Zimbabwe to explore business opportunities, at the time he was thinking of relocating to South Africa, he said he had fallen in love with that country, particularly Nelson Mandela.

So as he wanted to make South African his second home, he was looking at the areas to invest his money, so he was looking for direction, he needed business help.

We hosted a cocktail reception for him and his management where they exchanged contact details with some of the gathered businesspeople. I have always had enemies and soon after Michael left the country some of the people who were at the reception were busy sending emails, attacking my person.

As well, Michael Jackson’s visit did not receive the blessings of the international media, remember it was 1998 and we were engaged in the DRC war and the international propaganda machinery got into over-drive. They alleged that Michael had come to give President Mugabe a cheque to the war. That’s how absurd the situation was.

Michael is one person who did not want that kind of controversy and he did not pursue his investment ideas in Zimbabwe anymore. We kept on communicating, though, until around 2004 and he was impressing upon me that once the situation in this country improved, he would consider his options.

So when he announced in March that he was embarking on the This Is It tour, which had an option to go international, we were already making plans to approach him, with a view to having just one show in this country.

You never know, we might have got him, after all, the politics of the country have largely improved.

But on reflection, you wonder about the lengths that some people have to go to undermine someone. In their myopic view, these people thought they were stabbing me in the back, yet in essence they were stabbing the country. You cannot over-emphasise the value that Michael Jackson would have added to our country if he had invested in this country.

I have met different personalities in my life, from politicians, athletes, musicians to soccer stars but none has had a more profound meaning in my life than Michael Jackson, he was the embodiment of a person misunderstood.

In a way I think his life mirrors mine – people just talk about Michael Jackson yet they don’t even know what will be going on in his life. Similarly, how many tales about Phillip Chiyangwa have you heard, just because I am Phillip Chiyangwa.

From South Africa he flew into Victoria Falls and then I picked him at Harare International Airport to Meikles Hotel, where he was to stay. My first impression of him was he was someone who needed companionship, someone who was yearning for friendship. He was open to exploring new avenues and badly needed ideas on how to handle his business ideas.

I also discovered that besides being a talented musician, he had a lot of business ideas, he was full of life when it came to discussing ventures, investment vehicles and opportunities. But because of the PHD (Pull Him Down) syndrome within us Zimbabweans, we never got to know how much value he would give to our country.

What he told me, though, was that he had fallen in love with Victoria Falls, that he had loved every bit of it. "I think it was created by God even before a human being, it’s so majestic," he remarked.

He also never made it a secret that Mandela was a personal inspiration, reason why he was seeking to settle in that country. Probably away from the prying media as well.

But he had his other side as well. When we had lined up an appointment with President Mugabe, he changed his plans, just minutes before going to State House. He claimed that he had a toothache and was not feeling well, so he could not see the Head of State. So I had to rush to his hotel room and persuade him to go and see the President.

"What am I going to say, Phillip," he protested. "What kind of person is he? What should I do when I get to him?" I assured him that when he gets there, say his greetings and then wait for the President to say anything, if there was anything to be said. It is thus we went to State House and he met the President.

He was a well-read person and quite up-to-date with happenings on the world scene. In one discussion, I remember, he was asking his manager who was handling Tiger Woods. That was the time that Tiger Woods was coming onto the scene, very strong black personality, and Michael Jackson was worried about who his handlers were. He knew of the pitfalls that awaited black personalities. It also showed he was human, he cared about other people.

So when I heard the news that Friday morning that Michael Jackson had been pronounced dead, I counted the loss, not only to the Jackson family and the world, but more particularly to us as Zimbabweans. We did not realise the potential that he had in 1998 but we were hoping that one day, our politics allowing, he would come back and be part of us. As the world mourns the passing of an icon, we all wish Michael Jackson, MJ to many, peace — peace that he never enjoyed on this earth.

Rest well, the King of Pop. (Sunday Mail)