Zex Manatsa: the man who united Zim football’s unholy trinity

Fitzgerald Munyoro

On the 20th of January 2022, legendary musician Zex Manatsa succumbed to cancer at the age of 78.

Besides leaving behind a music legacy that lives on vicariously in his 6 sons, history will remember him as a man whose life story is dotted with beautiful footnotes.

In 1979, he did the unthinkable.

A bumper crowd of 50 000 people thronged Rufaro Stadium, not to sway along to the merry sounds of the Green Arrows where he was the lead vocalist and bass guitarist.

Thousands of people filled Zimbabwe’s oldest arena to witness him and his soon to be bride exchange their wedding vows.

Globally, only the British royal family, celebrities and head of states can boast of having attracted large crowds for an otherwise private event.

It is only recently that South African artist Cassper Nyovest dared to be ambitious on Twitter with the #FillUpCoca Cola dome movement.

Therefore, a question might be asked; how was it possible for an otherwise simple, reclusive man with a gift for music to have amassed such a large following?

The answer might perhaps lie in the fact that he communicated to Zimbabwe’s populace in two of their favourite languages; music and football.

He did not just end there, he composed popular anthems for three of Zimbabwe’s biggest teams that command a large following across all the 10 provinces; Highlanders, Dynamos and Caps United.

In the 80S,Manatsa penned songs that heralded the exploits of the legendary Highlanders ,Dynamos and Caps Utd teams

The three songs named after Zimbabwe’s traditional big 3 where surprisingly embraced by the warring fandoms of the rival football clubs.

In the annals of history, this act remains an anomaly.

 Football is the closest human fixation that can compete with religion and tribalism.

It demands fierce loyalty and fanatic fandom yet Manatsa was able to compose themes that bellowed from the speakers of Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo and were sung along to by the Dembare and Caps United faithful at their shared home ground Rufaro Stadium.

In 1980, another beautiful footnote was added to his career, he was part of the selected Zimbabwean artists who performed alongside reggae crooner Bob Marley at the Independence Day celebrations .

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