Tawanda Marwizi Arts Correspondent
Featuring on local and international films earned Lawrence Banda (who later changed his name to Lawrence Simbarashe) popularity that opened floodgates to fame and fortune.
He became a darling of many companies as they engaged him for adverts and that time he bought a fleet of nice cars and used to live lavishly, according to close relatives.
Simbarashe became known as “Mudhara Bhonzo” after his lead role in the famous “Timmy naBhonzo” television series and more hats of fame heaped on his head. Today, the popular story about Mudhara Bhonzo is a sad tale of a frail beggar roaming the streets of Harare and Chitungwiza.
And the question many have been asking after hearing the sad story is: What happened to his fortune and where is his family?
A close relative said when Bhonzo became famous, he was wild and spent most of his time in bars drinking beer.
“It all started around 1992 when mudhara failed to handle his fame and would spend most of his time drinking beer.
“He had a number of nice cars and was well-known for his lavish lifestyle in Chitungwiza. At one time he had more than three cars that he would change according to days and events.
“With the many deals he got from top companies, he earned a lot of money and he would not be a beggar today if he had managed his income well. It was unfortunate that fame got into his head. Things were still well when he left his job at ZBC because the commercial deals kept coming his way. He was a real celebrity.”
However, when things began to slow down, Bhonzo is said to have started selling his cars and other expensive belongings he had bought to sustain the celebrity lifestyle that he was used to.
Company deals began to fall away and he was out of employment. Things got harder when an ailment affected his voice, his tool of trade. Now, he hardly utters audible words and he cannot get advertising or acting roles.
As misfortunes piled on his life, his house was gutted by fire in 2011 and he lost the few valuables that he still had. Then, stress and ill-health affected him and his situation became pathetic. He began knocking on office doors of people he knew, asking for assistance until they got fed up and he went to beg in the streets.
So, where are his children or other family members?
Bhonzo broke up with his first wife, who is reportedly staying in Belvedere, in the late 80s and later remarried Pain Mugura, who is the current wife, in 1991.(Mugura has been accused of abandoning her husband and rarely assists him).
From his first marriage the veteran actor has two children Lawrence (Junior), a medical doctor in UK and Liona who is now married and stays in New Zealand.
It was not clear what really transpired between him and the children but close sources say their relationship is not good and the children have turned their backs on him.
Those who spoke on the matter said it seems the relationship went sour some time back, but Liona and her husband would often visit Bhonzo in Chitungwiza until they also stopped in unclear circumstances.
Contacted for comment New Zealand-based Liona refused to shed light on her relationship with her father.
“I can’t help you,” was all she said. Efforts to get a comment from Lawrence (Junior) were unsuccessful but their mother is said to be living well in Harare. She has moved on.
From his second marriage, Bhonzo has two children Tatenda, a student in South Africa, and John.
Bhonzo’s friend and neighbour Edson Gunda said though he could not shed more light on the matter he last saw the children long back.
“I have not seen them for some time but I don’t know what could be the reason for that,” he said.
Mugura said children from the first marriage have neglected their father.
“They are there in the diaspora but they are neglecting their father. I don’t know why they are doing that to him,” she said.
Mugura said the actor had since accepted the actions of his children.
Bhonzo’s long-time buddy Timothy Tapfumaneyi said he was not aware of the relationship between the actor and his children.
“I wouldn’t know about his relationship with his children because by then I was young and he would not tell me about his problems,” said Tapfumaneyi.
But Tapfumaneyi was present recently when well-wishers led by MP Psychology Maziwisa donated clothes, groceries and cash to Bhonzo.
That was part of the little aid that Bhonzo, the once famous spender, gets these days. He is still roaming the streets in search of assistance.