IN death as in life, the mystery that was Andy Brown remains unsolved.
In fact, Andy aka Godfrey aka Mavunganidze aka Cadia Shoko’s colourful personal life has taken another interesting twist, five years after the iconic star breathed his last.
As a tribute to the late great musician, who died at Parirenyatwa Hospital on March 16, 2012, The Sunday Mail Leisure last week made the arduous journey from Harare to Chavengwa, Mudavanhu Village in Mberengwa where Andy Brown is buried.
His grave is covered with a beautiful granite tombstone shaped like a guitar in honour of the amazing things Andy Brown did with the instrument over the decades.
A four-bedroom stonework house he built next to Gomusasa River near Chomugoti Mountain has collapsed and is now home to a variety of small reptiles, rodents and insects. The weather has had its way with the house and there is simply no life.
The adjacent compound built for his mother also offers little sign of life.
But it was there that we found Gogo Ntombana Ncube, the woman who claims to be the late Brown’s biological mother.
Gogo Ncube (80) lives with her great-granddaughter, who is disabled and in urgent need of professional care.
The two have one cow and four goats. No chickens scratch and peck around the yard. But Ncube still has enough energy to cultivate her fields, which have maize, groundnuts, finger millet and cowpeas.
She says this produce, plus Government aid, carry them through each year.
When we arrived at the homestead having fought the horrible, rain-damaged roads and contended with collapsed bridges for over seven hours, and having walked almost 3km, Gogo Ncube was about to go to the river for a bath — but she put it on hold.
“Visitors from Harare, with our roads badly damaged by rains, this is completely unexpected, I’m so delighted — please come inside,” she said as she appraised my colleagues Believe Nyakudjara and Tendai Chara, and myself.
After identifying ourselves and stating why we wanted to see Andy Brown’s resting place, Gogo Ncube asked us to feel at home and treat ourselves to sweet sorghum (ipwa).
As one of my colleagues went to the nearby field to get some of the snack, she sat down and started talking …
Gogo Ncube’s Story
“I miss my son so much. When he was alive, we never suffered this much. He always had a way of making things work. He would visit up to three times a year and sometimes he would take me with him to Harare,” she said, almost tearful.
As daylight was fast disappearing, we asked her to show us Andy brown’s grave while we talked.
As she showed us around her homestead and her rapoko field, which she takes great pride in, Gogo Ncube told us how she met Andy Brown’s father.
But having always been told that Andy Browns’ mother — Shingairai Zvondiwe Ncube — was long dead, we were puzzled.
“I am Andy’s biological mother. Munin’ina wangu ayigeza kundidarika, saka vanhu vakangoti iyeyu ndiye mai va Andy vachiona kuita mukiwa ka kwaanga akaita (My younger sister was more polished than me, so everyone just thought she had to be Andy’s mother because of his skin colour).
“But Andy never discriminated. He treated his aunt, myself, his half-brothers and half-sisters and my sister’s children the same. And I didn’t mind, that is the way things are in our culture — zvekuti aunt izvo zvakauya nemakiwa, mai ndimai,” she insisted.
Gogo Ncube said she had other children but they had all died. She said her sister, on the other hand, still had her offspring dotted around the world.
“It was his (step) sisters and (step) brothers, together with some of his children, that helped with the tombstone. They came here sometime back and put this stone, but they haven’t been back since.”
Gogo Ncube says she met Andy’s father in Zvishavane while she was staying with a relative.
“Takangaonana kamwe, akandipa chipo chemwana nechipo chemari. Ko mimba inonetsa kubata here? (We only met once and he gave me the gift of a child and some money. After all, is it difficult to fall pregnant?) I never asked for his name. When you meet a black person like us you ask their totem so that you avoid breaking traditional customs but a white man — what do I need his name for?”
She says as he grew, Andy constantly pleaded with his family to tell him who his father was.
“He would ask me and his uncles, saying the least we could do was just tell him who he was. I had nothing to tell him, I did not know and he thought that maybe I was hiding it from him but the truth was I never tried to find out his identity and I did not care,” she confessed.
Gogo Ncube said when she gave birth to Andy in 1962, her own mother and other village people thought the child had albinism.
“Asi ini ndaiziva zvangu chokwadi kuti mukiwa uyu (I knew the truth that the child was of mixed race.)”
She said Andy’s father spoke to her in English, which she was not so bad at herself as she had gone up to Standard Three.
“Most Grade Seven pupils of these days cannot speak English the way I do,” she declared.
She said at birth Andy was named Godfrey before becoming Cadia then Maunganidze before naming himself Andy Brown.
“We had named him Godfrey but a relative told us that when he grew up he would go to Arcadia in Harare for school and also live there with other people like him. That is where the name Cadia came from,” narrated Gogo Ncube in reference to the suburb in the capital city built during colonial times to mostly house the mixed race community.
She said Andy encountered difficulties because of his Shona name and surname which contrasted with his light complexion.
Then he changed his name: “When I asked him where he got that name from, he said all coloured people were named Brown. He explained that while looking for job he was asked his name and because he had encountered problems before he just came up with something, thus naming himself Andy Brown.”
As for the name Maunganidze, she says after she attended one of Andy’s gigs in Harare and after seeing the number of people who had gathered to see him perform, she felt it was appropriate. (Maunganidze, meaning someone who brings people together.)
Queen Mashie’s Story
However, the records show that Andy’s mother was Zvondiwe, and even his late daughter Chiedza’s middle name was Zvondiwe.
Speaking to Gogo Ncube, my colleagues and I agreed that she did not look sound or act like someone who had a form of dementia or amnesia — but hey, we are not doctors.
She was coherent, appeared quite responsible and is looking after a great-grandchild who requires special attention all on her own.
So why is she calling herself Andy Brown’s mother?
We sought clarification from the late star’s sister Queen Mashie, an artiste based in France but who frequents Zimbabwe and happens to be in the country at the moment.
“She said that? Nhai nhai, asi maiguru vavekupenga here? (Has my aunt gone mad?)” asked Queen Mashie, real name Tatenda Mashiringo, when confronted with Gogo Ncube’s claims.
“I do not know what is happening with her but I love her still. Let me set the record straight. There are seven of us from our mother Zvondiwe. Six of us — Rumbidzai, Nyembezi, Ushemasimba, Fortunate, Sihlezikuphi and myself — share the same father, hence the common surname Mashiringo.
“Our eldest brother, Andy, was the first born. Our mother was a nurse and she met Andy’s father, a British doctor, at a hospital where she worked. They had a thing and Andy was born,” narrated Queen Mashie.
She said Andy lived with their mother for about five years and then she remarried.
“When our mother met our father, she took Andy to our rural home where he stayed with maiguru (Gogo Ncube). That’s how he grew up in the village. Life was not pleasant there but when he finished Grade Seven, our mother took him to come and live with rest of the family in Bulawayo.
“Our father became abusive. He would beat our mother up saying ‘handina mwana murungu ini’ (I don’t have a white child). Andy would hear all this and after a while he ran away from home to live on the streets.”
Queen Mashie says their mother found Andy but could not take him back home. They decided to place him in an orphanage.
“At that time his age did not allow him to be in an orphanage so they changed his age from his authentic March 15, 1959 to 1962, to make him younger.”
Queen Mashie called one of her sisters in Bulawayo to confirm this and she told us the same story in that conference call. She says it was at the orphanage that Cadia Shoko became Andy Brown, although she says she will never know if he came up with the name himself or if it was given by staff at the home.
When Cadia Shoko became Andy Brown, a successful musician haunted by memories of an abused mother decided to start setting things right.
“Andy approached our mother and told her that he would build her a house; that stonework that has since collapsed was built for our late mother. She agreed to leave her life and retrace her steps back to Mberengwa where she is buried next to her son,” said Queen Mashie. Queen Mashie, who has five albums under her belt, says things were not so rosy with Gogo Ncube by the time Andy died.
“He accused her of killing our mother so that she could move into the house Andy built for our mother (Zvondiwe). They did not even talk. She (Gogo Ncube) had children of her own but they are all dead. People say she killed them – I don’t believe all that though.”
A Family Disjointed
Queen Mashie says she believes her brother is resting in peace. However, she has one prayer.
“I pray for his children to be together. They are not getting along,” said Queen Mashie without explaining what exactly was happening. “Don’t get me wrong. We love each other so much. But we have strong personalities and we do not want to be told what to do. We are stubborn. My brother was also like that.”
Queen Mashie wanted a tribute show to mark the fifth anniversary of her brother’s passing.
“I had found a venue, which I was going to pay for and so on but we disagreed with the children. Ammara said she wanted something big for her father and in the end we failed to do anything. I feel like I’m letting my brother down.
“Even if I could, there is no way I can do this without his children. We all have to be there, to work together and properly remember him with a befitting ceremony, but it looks like that is going to be difficult.”
Andy’s high-flying musician daughter Ammara was not picking up her mobile phone last week.
Her younger sister, Chengeto, answered her phone and asked that we send her questions in writing. By the time of going to print, she had not responded.
Memories of a Star
“I’ve got great memories of my brother, my mentor. He was the first born in my family and I was the last born. I learnt music from him, I learnt a lot from him. I have memories of him musically and also as a brother. He was protective and all that. I miss him.
“What I miss so much about him is him being a brother to me, his crazy side especially about being protective. He was so protective.
“As a fan, I love his music, its timeless, I listen to it and I know I’ll listen to it for ever and ever. I still cherish the music and I want to keep his legacy going as a sister and he has got kids also doing the same thing. We are on the same page,” concluded Queen Mashie.