BULAWAYO – At the height of his fame in South Africa, Tichafa Matambanadzo had a garage brimming with 25 stylish, high-end vehicles, while he also owned at least nine properties dotted around Mzansi.
It was the 1990s, when a recently liberated South Africa was waking up to a world of possibility, a world where the chains of apartheid could no longer bind the hopes of young go-getters.
A new breed of artists and entrepreneurs – young, talented and black – was on the rise and the man known as Tich Mataz was one of this tribe’s most recognizable faces and its most eloquent voices. . But it would all end in tears.
“When I first left Zimbabwe I was getting maybe Z$2,000 and when I went to South Africa my first salary was R15,000,” Mataz said in a recent interview with Boyz Dze Tonaz TV’s YouTube channel.
“Remember I was also a businessman. I had a communications company, Khulumani Communications, which handled a lot of corporate communications there, I had an investment company, I had a nightclub, I was doing big government business, I was buying fancy cars. At one point, and it was stupid of me, I had about 25 brand new cars,” he said. declared.
The story of the rise and fall of Mataz in South Africa is part of the urban tradition of both countries. Media personalities from both sides of Limpopo have spoken about how Mataz had an undeniable influence on their careers.
Having joined urban and hip hop radio Radio 3 in 1988 in newly independent Zimbabwe and Radio BOP in 1991, Mataz holds a unique position in the media history of both countries.
He is the only media personality that young urbanites, who were only beginning to find their true place in their changing countries, can identify with. While the story of Mataz’s downfall is told quite often, little is said about how he ended up in Mzansi in the first place.
Mataz recalls, “So what happened was that my friends were doing piecework in Botswana. So he went to a party, and people really used to do that, and he stuck a tape in the radio. He took my tape to a party and there was an influential person there at the time. He was the head of Radio Bophuthatswana (BOP)… So a guy said, “I heard a nigga doing some crazy stuff on the radio, what’s his name? And then they realized it was Tich Mataz who was on Radio 3 at the time.
“I’m not kidding, I was actually on the radio when Thapelo Thipe called me. I was doing the ‘hello baby where are you calling from and what’s your message’ routine. He said ‘this is Thapelo Thipe and I’m looking for Tich Mataz” and I said “it’s Tich Mataz, what’s your dedication?” He then said ‘no, comrade, take me off the air.’
” I could not believe it. He offered me a gig on the spot. He said ‘listen, come on we’ll pay for everything. We will transport you to South Africa and we will transport you to Bophuthatswana (now North West Province). At the time, Radio BOP was South Africa’s Radio 3.
At the dawn of democracy, Mataz was drafted in to replace one of South Africa’s most iconic radio voices, Bob Mabhena. The boy from Highfields in Harare took to Mzansi like a fish in water and radio in this country would never be the same.
“Metro FM was there and it was under SABC and there were specific things you couldn’t do. You could speak on Radio BOP because it was not a government institution per se,” says Mataz.
At the time, the big bosses were Bob Mabhena and Zandile Nzalo. They were the big names in radio in South Africa. Mabhena had just left the drive show on BOP and moved to Metro FM and they needed a top voice to fill that gap.
“I was a resident of then Bophuthatswana, which was then like an independent state because of apartheid. So everyone who was then in the original independent states, as they called it, at independence became South Africans,” says Mataz.
“It is now called the North West Province. One of the things I’m grateful for is that I’m able to learn quickly. I went to South Africa, learned a language, culture and literally became part of South African society.
Before long, his stock would increase and his bank account would also soon be inflated.
He recalls: “I was the first guy to have a wild nightclub, Rosebank, when South Africa was going from an apartheid state to an independent state… I used to do serious private parties with the likes of Miss South Africa, beautiful women. Before long there was a Learjet available, we used to visit three states in one weekend. We would go to Johannesburg, Windhoek and maybe Harare.
“I was the first to buy an off-roader in South Africa. BMW noticed it and then they brought their first 4×4, an X5 and I was the first to drive it in Johannesburg. J was the first non-performing athlete to be a Reebok South Africa brand ambassador.
Despite all his successes, despite his rapid rise to iconic status in a newly independent South Africa, it would all end in tears for Mataz, his business empire seemingly falling apart with the stroke of a pen.
Mataz was deported on March 24, 1998, after Home Affairs officials discovered that he had fraudulently acquired a South African identity document and did not have a valid work permit.
His expulsion at the time seemed opportunistic, with some blaming it on the xenophobic virus that gripped South Africa even in the 1990s, although then home affairs spokesman Manase Makwela said interest in Mataz’s citizenship only arose when Mataz wanted the department to issue him. with a passport to travel to Burkina Faso to represent SABC at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Makwela said that during their investigation they discovered that Mataz had apparently received a work permit on March 31, 1994, which was valid only until March 31, 1995, to work at BOP Broadcasting in Bophuthatswana.
“I was a millionaire at 25,” Mataz said in response to the allegations. “I was living in South Africa and at the time I was going everywhere. I went to Jamaica just to see where Bob Marley was born, I went to his shrine, his museum because I had the money. I went to see Michael Jackson do his last official concert; the History Tour in Prague I was there. Before meeting Michael Jackson in Zimbabwe, I met him there.
“So I really had the privilege of doing crazy things when I was young. So if a guy is doing well, making money, why the hell should I try to turn my legal status into a status illegal? But sometimes it’s not up to you, is it?”
However, Mataz acknowledged that maybe he should have done things differently back then. Blinded by bright lights and flashing cameras, he lost sight that, in a country where strong xenophobic sentiment is never far away, he was still an outsider.
He adds: “When you grow up, you understand perspective. You begin to see things from an eagle’s perspective. If a guy from Malawi comes into this country and takes over the market, becomes the sexiest guy on TV, the very nature of a Zimbabwean or any other human being would be to ask “who exactly is this guy? Isn’t there someone else who can do what he does?
“I ruffled a lot of feathers and although I had favors in some of the highest offices, the one thing I should have known was that when a king leaves his country for another, he does not not remain king even there. When I got there I was blindsided by all the excitement, the money was pouring in. I was not able to read what was happening in my environment.
“So while I was excited, I was happy and I was fine, others weren’t. I could have done things very differently. I could have and I should have.
With his deportation, Mataz’s South African business empire fell to ruins. More than two decades later, he thinks he should have invested more in his home just in case a rainy day finally arrived.
“That was silly and I see it now that I’m older…when you’re young you think the money will never be finished.” I had a safe for him and for her. My wife had her own safe and I had a jewelry designer. I had three personal houses and for investment I had five or six others. So I had nine or ten houses in total,” he recalls.
“At the time you thought I would never go back to Zimbabwe, but I should have bought houses here. I bought for my mother and my father for example but I should have made my investment in Zimbabwe.
“…I might have interacted very differently with some of the people I considered family and friends. My son is South African, he was born there and at the time there were many more reasons why I should have continued in South Africa than to be fired.
“It was also a very important life lesson that reformed and reshaped the way I interacted and did business. All I can say is watch this space.