Is Macheso the real deal?


Over the past weeks Alick Macheso has dominated the headlines with his decision to marry a second wife; whose courtship no doubt at some point necessitated that he cheats on his first wife.

I simply cannot see how any man can get to the point of deciding to marry a second wife without having gone via the cheating route i.e to meet, then date, then fall in love and finally make a marital commitment to someone else while you have a spouse at home doesn’t leave one smelling daisy fresh.

I am not a fan of his music and for the greater part of my existence – the man rarely crosses my mind therefore devoting a whole blog entry to discussing him would ordinarily be unwarranted.

However, I recently came across the not-so-funny information that this musician was now preaching the gospel of HIV prevention against the background of his dubious private life high jinks.

Really?

What qualifies this man to be entrusted with a life saving message when his own very recent conduct is contrary to the anti-HIV hymn book he now purportedly sings from?

A month ago, one Psychology Maziwisa took it upon himself to ferociously defend Macheso’s right and liberty to marry another wife because as far as he can stretch his powers of reasoning “it is the appeal of his voice not character that has gained him (Macheso) the legions of fans that adore him. Macheso is a celebrated musician not saint.”

Well, I will not argue that point having already admitted that I am not an authority on the man or his music and am therefore not equipped to make an informed or considered critique of Macheso.

But I am sufficiently versed in the discourses surrounding HIV prevention and messaging to wonder how a man who is about marry his own daughter’s friend becomes the best mouth-piece to spread the word?

Haven’t we established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that inter-generational sex is a major driver of HIV infection particularly in this region – and if the age gap between Macheso and his intended bride is not inter-generational; I don’t know what is.

Haven’t we spilt ink debunking the evils of sexual networks and how the practise of having multiple concurrent sexual partners is arguably the highest contributor to new HIV infections, most of which occur in marriages and long-term committed relationships.

Macheso’s lifestyle revolves around the two women in his lives and at some point it is very likely that his wife Mai Sharon was blissfully unaware that her husband was involved with anyone besides her or being intimate with the individual.

....age is just a number? Macheso with his wife-to-be, Tafadzwa who just happens to have been friends with Macheso's daughter

A dear friend Fungai Machirori’s commentary on the phenomenon seems an appropriate reference point at this juncture as it succinctly puts across what I am at pains to communicate.

We can reasonably assume that Macheso was not practicing safe sex with his wife (as most married couples who “trust” each other don’t) if the fact that she reportedly suffered a miscarriage not long ago is anything to go by.

And it is plausible that Macheso was not abstaining from having Tafadzwa (the wife-to-be) sate his manly appetites.

I hasten to say there is a lot of conjecture coming into play at this point but when a man with dirty linen hanging out on the line decides to become a detergent salesman – we are forced to wonder why we should buy into his pitch when evidence of his not-so-clean laundry suggests that he’s not practicing what he’s preaching.

I believe there is always a need for more voices to amplify the message of HIV prevention but I am also convinced that the integrity of the message is harmed when it is entrusted to people who are not credible as role models.

So the man is not a saint – fine. But where the hell does he get the crazy idea that he can be an “activist” advocating for HIV prevention when his own life reads like a script out of “The things one should avoid doing to prevent HIV”?

A few months ago, Garikai Muchemwa woefully lamented the “lack of a specific HIV prevention strategy targeting musicians” revealing that as a development practitioner with specific interest in HIV prevention he was “highly disturbed with the issues surrounding Josphat Somanje’s infidelity (he was reportedly caught by his wife in the act with a girlfriend according to H-Metro reports) and Tongai Moyo’s multiple concurrent sexual partnerships”.

He goes to point out that: “barely a week after disclosing his HIV status Tongai Moyo had a domestic dispute with his wife over his intentions of marrying a second wife and there are even some claims that the man impregnated his wife’s young sister. This unfortunately claimed Barbara’s life (Moyo’s wife) as she committed suicide using rat poison.”

But I digress.

What has really been grating at my mind is whether there is any merit in polygamy as a preventive measure for HIV or infidelity? If men were encouraged to marry as many women as they pleased would we witness a decline in HIV prevalence and would we see infidelity drastically reduced to becoming a very rare occurrence?

I ask this because someone hailed Macheso for being “heroic” enough to admit that he is cheating on his wife and will now seek to white-wash that reality by formalizing the relationship with his hitherto “small house”.
What I maintain is that it is not possible for a man to arrive at the destination called polygamy without going through the route called “betraying and cheating on his first wife”.

I only wish to strongly contest, Macheso’s suitability for the role of HIV prevention activist which he appears to have taken up with such shameless gusto.

Is he the real deal?

Mimosa and Action, HIDC (in their combined wisdom or lack thereof) seem to think so.

c

Caution: male ego! (handle with care)


Circumcision is the latest strategy in the never-ending bid to curb the spread of HIV and those tasked with coming up with messages and slogans for the latest campaigns targeting our men folk certainly have their work cut out for them.

...circumcised?... still looks edible to me...

By and large, reproductive health issues have focused on women and their messaging has largely been prescriptive because women, particularly Zimbabwean women, are accustomed to being told what to do about and with their bodies.

It doesn’t take much to persuade women to take up any number of health interventions availed to them because they are more predisposed to health-seeking behavior.

Men, on the other hand, will want to preserve the ‘alpha male’ façade by suffering in silence rather than enduring the probing inquisition of a health practitioner particularly in matters relating to their sexual health.

It will require unprecedented levels of toadying to come up with the kind of messaging that will persuade men to entrust their precious ‘cargo’ to the surgical ministrations of the circumcising health practitioners.

Cold facts backed by impressive statistical figures and research findings resting on the formidable credentials of scientists and academics might not be enough to persuade the average Zimbabwean man to part with an inch of skin on his body – much less the skin placed on the tip of such a prized body part.

Clearly the challenge now lies with campaigners to find a way of ramming the message home – that giving up that piece of skin means giving up a 60% chance of contracting HIV – quite an alluring thought considering the toll that AIDS has taken on sub-Saharan Africa.

Metaphors of winning, conquering, being victors and champions are now used to induce men in anticipation that such packaging of the male circumcision message will see men charging to the nearest circumcision clinic.

We are yet to see our menfolk swarming to the circumcision clinic to gladly undergo the 20 minute surgical procedure that will guarantee that their sex lives are ‘closed for renovations’ for at least six weeks while the wounds heal.

...can Zim men stomach the thought of a blade near their glorified carrots?

Circumcision as a preventive measure in HIV mitigation has invited much debate with some South African AIDS experts being accused of jumping the gun as far back as 2007 when delegates attending a national AIDS conference in Durban called for “a mass circumcision programme to be introduced to fight the country’s growing AIDS crisis”.

Forced and mandatory circumcision of ‘all adult males’? Not a very tactful approach.

At the time, Neil Martinson, the deputy director of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, stated that there was now a lot of evidence showing that male circumcision was so effective that it was “almost like a vaccine”.

In any event, critics quickly dismissed the idea arguing that mass circumcision does not help women, does not discourage multiple partners, and could even encourage men and women to take risks thinking that circumcision conferred immunity and removed the need for condoms.

In the US, the issue has attracted controversy following the introduction of circumcision lawsuits where men can sue parents who authorized hospitals to circumcise them at birth asserting that ‘the only person who can legally consent to a circumcision is a person making this personal decision for himself’.

By claiming that the decision infringed on their constitutional rights to enjoy the “inalienable body ownership rights of infants and children” these lawsuits have led to the recognition of genital ownership rights while “thousands are now undergoing foreskin restoration, either medical or surgical, to reconstruct what they consider was violently taken from their bodies early in their lives.”

...men in the US haul their parents to court over being circumcised at birth

Roping in women to encourage their partners and sons to get circumcised is one way of ensuring that the message is sent home because couples stand a better chance of engaging in health-seeking behavior than isolating men and addressing them as individuals.

Granted, few women can convince their partners to use condoms, some have to drag their ‘significant other’ kicking and screaming for couples’ HIV counseling and testing so it might just be a tall order to hope that they can influence their partners to undergo circumcision.

But what influence women cannot exert on their husbands or partners they can probably exert on their sons and other male relations.

Patriarchal induction has ensured that women become the most accomplished apple polishers; capable of astronomical levels of sycophancy that would make them the most qualified group to ‘handle with extreme care’ the rather fragile egos of the men in our society.

Trained from birth on how to stroke the male ego, women can give campaigners and programmers a tip or two on how to broach the topic of men subjecting their privates to the surgical blade.

In Zimbabwe, the circumcision discourse is only just ripening with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW) ambitiously setting a target of circumcising 1.2 million males by 2012 as a measure of significantly cutting the number of new HIV infections in the country.

Over 3000 males had been circumcised in the 6 sites countrywide with Bulawayo totaling 1239 as at 31 January.

Like taking the proverbial horse to the water but failing to make it drink, the Ministry’s target will not be realized unless it finds a way to encourage men to take a swig from the latest HIV prevention tributary and get circumcised.

Caution must be exercised because the male ego is very very fragile!