IT was on August 15, 1942, in Majakatira village, Chief Chatongoza in Chiwundura communal lands, Midlands, when a baby boy was born after only seven months in its mother’s womb. His birth did not bring with it much joy, as he was a premature baby with a tiny body filled with little energy that made it difficult for one to carry him in the arms.
Extra care and additional clothing was needed to carry him.
Back in that village, babies born prematurely were regarded as misfortune that would bring catastrophe to the community.
Culture and tradition had it that the baby should be cast out of the village.
Village elders were then seized with responsibility of casting away that baby, but were supposed to convene a meeting to decide on how to dispose of the baby.
The village elders’ decision was final, according to the village’s traditional and cultural laws.
As fate would have it, a few weeks into his birth, Joseph Mechanic Manyeruke got seriously sick.
His illness seems to have sent a message to the village elders that the ancestors were not happy and they must cast away the premature baby as soon as possible or misfortunes would befall their village.
Without wasting time, a meeting was convened.
One elderly woman was tasked to mould a big clay pot (“gate” in Shona) in which the baby was to be bundled in before being dumped on the banks of a nearby river.
His mother, Hakuna, was not informed of the village elders’ decision, neither was his father, Magundani. Sad!
On the fateful day when Mechanic was supposed to be cast away from the village, elders also convened a meeting and proceeded to the Manyeruke homestead.
No one to this day has an explanation as to how the gospel singer’s father, who was not at home that particular time, got word of the village elders’ resolution and that they were at his homestead to take away the “misfortune” from the village.
This is the sad story of the life of legendary gospel singer Baba Mechanic Manyeruke as he narrated it to The Herald on Saturday Lifestyle this week.
“My mother told me that she suddenly saw my father arriving moments before I was bundled into the big clay pot. They wanted to take me to the river where I was to be washed away.
“I was told of how my father stood firm, telling the villagers that there was no one who was supposed to touch or think of taking me anywhere.
“On that day, my mother told me, I was so sick that she could not feel my heartbeat. This was despite the fact that I was slowly breathing.
“I was told how my father strongly warned people who had come to take me away that if they dare touched me, someone was going to face the music,” said Baba Manyeruke, as he found comfort on a sofa at his Chitungwiza house.
The village elders later left their homestead letting his parents nurse him until he regained his health.
Interestingly, Baba Manyeruke captured his true story on the track “Vakandichengeta Mai” from the album “Dzokororo” released last year. But for him it was not yet over. It then came a time to name the baby.
Baba Manyeruke had a brother called Nkathazo who made and repaired metal pots and cups.
He loved and was so passionate about his job to the extent of preferring to be called by the moniker, Makanika.
Nkathazo then grabbed an opportunity to show the world how much he loved his job and came with a suggestion to name his younger brother Makanika.
“It was how the name Mechanic came about. My father named me Joseph and Nkathazo came with Makanika.
“It was the nurses at the hospital who wrongly spelt the name and wrote Mechanic on the birth registration forms but it was supposed to be Makanika in Shona.”
As he grew up, the name Mechanic became more popular.
“It appears people were keen on giving me names from my birth and do you know how the Baba came about?
“I was referred to as Baba Manyeruke on the first day I stepped at RBC (Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation) now ZBC. I had gone to record my first song “Mukoma Udzai Mai Kuti Ndaroora” after being called by producer Steven Kavhayi.
“That song was the only track that I did, which is not gospel. The youngster referred to me as Mudhara Meks, meaning elder. Then they began calling me Baba Manyeruke,” he recalled.
Baba Manyeruke’s life seems to have been characterised by hurdles as he grew up.
He started working at Lyons Zimbabwe as a general hand before going to work as a gardener in the leafy suburbs of Borrowdale and Vainona for years up until he became an established singer.
Although he is a role model to many and a celebrity to others, he feels all is not yet okay with him.
Without mentioning how he has been let down by people who had promised him a top of the range car — Jaguar XF — Baba Manyeruke has nothing much to show off for his fame, besides his house along Mandela Road in Chitungwiza.
He does not own any other business as his life solely revolved on music.
On Thursday morning, when The Herald on Saturday Lifestyle visited him at his house, he was pre-occupied with his car — a Nissan Terrano — which he was thoroughly cleaning, preparing to sell it.
Baba Manyeruke wants to sell the Nissan Terrano to raise money to purchase roofing materials for the house he is building in Chiundura, Masvingo.
He has been failing to raise the money for quite some time and selling the car is the only option left for him.
The renowned singer is married to Hellenah Manyeruke, who was also busy with laundry when we arrived at their house.
Mai Manyeruke also told of how she and her friends called Baba Manyeruke Mr Two Dollars after he gave her a $2 note in the Harare Gardens when they were on a date.
“I first met him in Mabvuku at a church conference where he was a guest singer. We then went on a date and it was when he gave me $2. I was so annoyed and went to tell my friends, who then nicknamed him Mr Two Dollars after the incident,” she said.