ZIMFLIX NEWS: Iconic actress ‘Mai Rwizi’ dies aged 83


SUSAN Chenjerai, the celebrated comedienne known by her stage name "Mai Rwizi" from the popular Mukadota Family television show, has passed away at the age of 83.

Mai Rwizi, Mukadota, Safirio Madzikatire, Zimflix, Zimbabwe film and tv news

Chenjerai was part of the hilarious cast of the Mukadota Family sitcom, which dominated the small screen in the 1980s and 1990s, in which she featured as Mai Rwizi along with the late musician-cum-actor Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire.  

Although she also played other roles, including a mother in 1983’s House of Hunger; most Zimbabweans will remember her as the calm, respectful wife to a notorious Mukadota, who would wreak havoc in the community and still get away with it through the support he received from his wife. Chenjerai and her on-screen husband Mukadota, became real life caricature of both characters and made their roles look real. 

She started off her entertainment career as a young girl in the 1950’s, joining the Bantu Actors, a group of artistes from Mbare that started in 1936, in 1951. She later joined the Marandellas Bush Babies in 1958.

Before working with Madzikatire, she collaborated with notable names such as the Wagon Wheels, a band where she met Oliver Mtukudzi. She also recorded with the late legendary gospel musician Jordan Chataika.

A chance encounter with Madzikatire in the late 1960’s catapulted her to stardom and changed the course of her life. Safirio was impressed when he heard her singing at a function in the Majubeki precinct of Mbare. Although she was still at school, Safirio asked Susan to join his band, the Safe Brothers, in 1969. They released several hit songs before coming up with scripts for the Mukadota series, which marked the beginning of her acting journey.

Susan was also an adept song writer. She is the one who wrote the hit song KwaHunyani. Mukadota later rerecorded the hit with Katarina. She also contributed to Vana Mai Vanofara, which was performed by Thomas Mapfumo.

By the time of her death, Chenjerai had become a pastor at the New Gospel Church of God. She got her calling to be a pastor after she got married to Apostle Lovemore Mobate in the 1970s. She and her husband began preaching around the farming communities. She resigned from her job at OK and from acting in 1984. From then on, Susan dedicated her life to full time ministry. The church has branches in Mbare, Centenary, Banket, Mutorashanga, Mozambique and South Africa.

Despite filling up venues with Madzikatire’s band and also producing a hit sitcom that took the small screen by storm, Chenjerai lamented her time in the entertainment industry and vowed never to return to acting. In a 2022 interview with The Standard's Sindiso Dube, Chenjerai said; 

“Life in the acting and music industry was scary. If I am to give a testimony of my life you will know that God surely loves me and he took me out of darkness and I will never go back there.”

In a 2012 interview with the Herald, Chenjerai also revealed that she never gained anything materialistic throughout her 20-year acting career, further claiming that Madzikatire exploited her by taking all the copyrights for all the work they did together.  

“Acting was not rewarding and I achieved nothing despite the fame we achieved together with the late Mukadota. Bhudhi [Mukadota] signed contracts on all the songs I composed and now I cannot lay claim to my songs because I did not personally sign for the songs,” she said.

In the later stages of her life, Chenjerai received several accolades during her lifetime; including the Zimbabwe Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, the Silver Jubilee Award, and the NAMA Legend Award.

For her portrayal as Mai Rwizi, Susan Chenjerai will be remembered as one of the nation’s best actresses. In a condolence message, The Cinema Society of Zimbabwe described Chenjerai's indelible contribution to Zimbabwean entertainment, saying; 

"We mourn the loss of a true legend, a cherished member of our community, and a shining example of the immense talent that Zimbabwe has to offer. Her portrayal of "Mai Rwizi" became a beloved and iconic representation of the strength, resilience, and unwavering spirit of Zimbabwean women.

"We take solace in the knowledge that Susan's legacy will live on, inspiring generations of artists to come. Her story is a testament to the power of dedication, passion, and the transformative impact that the arts can have on a nation."

She is survived by five children, more than 30 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren.

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