Cont Mhlanga: A rebel with a cause

By Morris Mpala

Dear Cont

Just when we were about to work together only the Lord decided it wasn’t gonna be.

You were an icon. You were ahead of your pack. You just weren’t of a common mould.

You are what saw things now while the rest saw eventually. You were the light in the industry. You were the pioneer. You were you. They will never make them like you ever. Before you they tried after you they will try your ways

You were controversial in art, thoughts, speech and deeds. You were fearless and spoke your mind without fear nor favour. As it was so it was said that was you. I wondered why you never gained weight at all I mistakenly thought he also had Tonga/Nambya heritage coz of the pencil slim body frame. You were a “siakotela” meaning the tough but slim one.

A couple of months back Cont laughed at me and said I was now obese betraying my Nambya/Tonga heritage … only a natural-born artist would echo that.

The last time I saw you at your offices, with other tv station stakeholders I thought you didn’t look nor sound the same. I said to myself uMalume isn’t himself I guess you weren’t feeling too good. Your eyes had slowed down but that brain was still laser sharp and the creative juices were unparalleled. You were still youthfully focused and you knew what wanted to be done. And you enjoyed saying statistical approaches

Probably you weren’t a happy man Malume. At times you weren’t well understood. At times the world didn’t get you, Kahle Kahle. We were too slow to your ideas and thought processes.

I followed you as a young politician. I used to listen to your thought process you were cut from another cloth. Your sarcasm and wittiness eluded many.

You could get angry Malume. The few incidences I saw your verbal diarrhoea directed at authorities or persons that didn’t wanna tow your line of thinking I vowed never to cross your path if eventually got to be close to you.

Your Amakhosi( but Cont why Amakhosi Vele that speaks artistically volumes of your mind ) project you declared you will do it with or without us as long as we played ball with you. You were as stubborn and consistent as a donkey. Inkani wawulitshongololo. You never wavered on your position such were your principles. Hard lonely worker. Wawungaboke Malume. I wondered ukuthi ngubani owangakugoba . Uhulumende wakwehlula kkkk uMalume could be ungovernable when he didn’t agree with you

I vividly remember you saying you will build Amakhosi wedwa nxa bengafuni but “ngizayakha ngedwa”. I was young and I visited the Amakhosi project Centre . You Intrigued me. You tantalized my thinking buds. You agitated my cause ie student activism then before my retirement from politics at the tender age of 24.

You were a rebel with a cause but we didn’t understand ( but I did get you most of the time ) though I just observed you from a distance. I didn’t know you.

I remember some of your public spats with authority and the authorities vowed to crush your Amakhosi project. Probably it suffered as a result coz it wasn’t supported as it was coz to me that project was a multi-million dollar undertaking and a project like never before seen.

One day as a kid I asked why you didn’t Crowdfund Amakhosi Centre to completion all you said it shall happen at God’s time and you said a lot. I don’t know who you thought that crazy kid was who kinda resembled you in physical stamina and rebel mind then but of course, I was more cosmetically advanced in academics and physical looks as your younger version of you 🤪.

I don’t know if you went to school or you were self-taught but you were knowledgeable too much Malume. Ilembe eleqa amanye amalembe ngokukhalipha.( thanks Prosper Ndlovu I now get the right expression to this old adage ). You oozed modem and African wisdom . Indigenous knowledge systems were in you.  You were an intellectually naughty Malume ( from my viewpoint ).

Live from Amakhosi on Friday I remember. Mangetes, Teekays, Stiks, Sandra Ndebele’s, cultural groups, Bulawayo scene knows you by your perfectionist tendencies. Your local isiNdebele drama on tv and airwaves and live stages was a breath of fresh air. I hated these so-called dramas growing up but you made me appreciate them. I hated drama in school but you brought sexy back to drama ie “ ama sketch “Malume. You birthed a lot of artistic talent the world over

But did you die a happy man? I don’t think so but you ignited a revolution and for that, you will rest in power.

We didn’t celebrate you much. We didn’t support you much ( but lawe Malume you were way way too ahead of us shuwa )

We didn’t understand you but after your death I know we will do something like a gala, statue, a day of honour and some mugs, key rings, T-shirt’s, badges. Show me one person who wasn’t touched by your tentacles and I will bring two devils with horns for dinner.

You have had your honours/awards here in Zim and abroad but I feel you felt we didn’t appreciate you as much as you would have loved to be appreciated. Maybe someone will confirm my take on this.

We are sorry we are human beings we never learn from history sixolele but after your death, we are celebrating you please allow us to be crazy happy for you and let’s jive like we are redoing groundbreaking for Amakhosi Theatre of Dreams … your ultimate dream for those kids who loved art.

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and the world will immortalize you. We are socialized never to celebrate living human beings coz we think that might turn out bad before they die. So allow us now to go all out and celebrate you

You attempted politics probably out of frustration coz you wanted community Development but I think it wasn’t your forte. You complained about service delivery but we were too young ( I was ) to understand these governance issues then. So you were a latent politician coz politics affected your day-to-day life but you weren’t meant for that.

I wonder if you ever became a visiting lecturer at any institution of learning both locally and abroad

I hear you did karate at times. Malume lawe into zakho time time babezakuqamula bafo coz you are slim aka ucigo. Guess that was an expression of art, the artistic tendency ( read idlozi le art ) was bubbling to come out

The icon Cont look: the unkempt Afro, the salt n pepper beard, the small very focused eyes, the skinny faced. The contours of your face.That I could sell to the world that was artistic on its own. Of late the look had that grandpa hat. Look that Cont look it’s worth millions. Give a badge like Che I will buy it anytime.

The movement you have started it’s worth billions.

The people you have touched knowingly and unknowingly it’s worth billions. The mark you have left too big shoes to fill it’s price less ayithengeki Malume even nge Mosi-oa-Tunya Yabo le esizwa ngayo.

Malume ( izitemo zakho angizazi) ngithi qhawe lamaqhawe awuyi ndawo wena sisonke . We don’t mourn your lot we celebrate we ululate we pop champagne we pour expensive whisk(e)y down …

Umkhulu lomsebenzi!! … I wonder what he meant. I guess we will never know

From Nambya Boy to you I say 

Continue Loving us till we meet again.

Morris Mpala writes in his personal capacity.

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