FROM ZIM’S SWEETHEART TO THE MOST HATED WOMAN | “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
The above phrase was uttered by Harvey Dent, in the classic Batman movie, The Dark Night Rises as he came face to face with the reality that despite fighting bad guys all his life, he was about to become one himself.
After having half his face blown off, a previously handsome Dent decides that instead of being a crime fighter, he would be better served becoming a criminal.
His transformation is staggering. A character that was loved and noted as a defender of the poor becomes public enemy number one in an instant. Dent’s observation comes to mind when one thinks of actress Anne Nhira who, in the space of a week, has become the woman that Zimbabweans love to hate.
This week’s outrage from all corners after Nhira successfully petitioned for the banishment of livewire South African socialite and entertainer Zodwa Wabantu is a far cry from the days when Nhira was Zimbabwe’s screen sweetheart.
On Studio 263, a soapie that for years was a prime time staple on local television, Nhira was a national treasure. In a production brimming with the best local acting talent, Nhira was the star, playing the intelligent and ambitious beauty queen Vimbai Jari.
With her slender build, something that social media jesters have picked up on this week as they throw mud at her, Vimbai was the typical beauty queen, except she was one that also possessed the brains to go with the pleasing face.
Coming from a modest, hardworking family that was typical of many around the country, it was easy for Zimbabweans to fall in love with Vimbai. With the flash of a smile, the whole country, like her determined suitor
In a country that still has a hard time separating the personas of TV characters on and off screen, Nhira has always been that beautiful, morally upright girl who, despite her supermodel looks, was defined by her strong sense of right and wrong.
Nhira herself has had a hard time putting to rest the ghost of Vimbai years after Studio 263 folded. Unlike the likes of Joyce Huni, played by the equally electric Tinopona Katsande, Vimbai Jari has simply refused to stay in her grave.
So when Nhira burst out this week, proclaiming her disapproval of Zodwa Wabantu she became, for the first time, perhaps in her career, someone that some Zimbabweans see as a villain.
“I am ecstatic that the Zimbabwean Government has responded quickly to my letter of objection about “Zodwa Wabantu” coming to Zimbabwe. She will no longer be attending the Zimbabwe National Tourism Carnival event,” she said as part of her post that kick started a deluge of abuse directed towards her.
Many could not understand how Nhira could find such pleasure in the banning of Zodwa. Zodwa is a creature of the social media age, a phenomenon, perhaps like the Kardashians, who does not have a particularly remarkable artistic skills set.
However, wherever her thigh shakes, she is the life of the party and many want to see her party. She has managed to harness the power of her personality without infringing on anyone else’s rights. Like any star who flaunts skin at the drop of a dime, she has her fair share of critics.
Many, like Nhira, see her act as an affront to African culture, as her style goes against the moral ideals that have guided Zimbabweans for generations. In a country and continent wrecked by the scourge of HIV/Aids, critics like Nhira would argue, does anyone need an unde_rwear dodging entertainer like Zodwa to be at the forefront of a national event?
Is she a role model as many demand that celebrities be? Nhira’s argument was that the country did not need to import a peddler of immorality like Zodwa when it has its own merchants of raunchiness like Bev and her troop of “se_xy angels”.
“Prior to this engagement I have always stood for empowerment of local artistes and I still feel it can be done. For example, if we can have Zodwa performing for God knows how much, why not have Gonyeti or Bev perform for the same amount? While some question the logic behind having one performer stopped, it goes without saying that you can’t have wholesome advocacy,” Nhira claimed.
With her points seemingly grounded in solid reasoning, why was Nhira taken to the cleaners for her campaign? One would argue Zimbabweans were simply reviled by the stench of hypocrisy from Nhira’s comments. After having tried her luck as an actress in South Africa for over a decade, it did not make sense that Nhira suddenly felt the need to stop Zodwa’s debut north of the Limpopo because she was not from Zimbabwe.
Her campaign seemed particularly malicious considering that samba dancers from Brazil, with their own famous dislike for clothes, would also be performing at the same event. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander, the saying goes, and one can argue that advocating for the banning of a neighbouring country’s performer while Brazilians roam free and nak_ed on the streets of Harare is unnecessary heavy handedness.
As things stand, Nhira is loathed in both South Africa and Zimbabwe and despite her victory after the Censorship Board’s decision, she might be one who simply cut her nose to spite her face.
When all is said and done, with her latest campaign, no one will see Nhira as the sweet, down to earth girl without a malicious bone in her body. Years after she stopped being the biggest thing on the local small screen, Vimbai Jari is finally no more.