It was an emotional interview as dancer and vocalist Pamela “Gonyeti” Zulu intermittently broke down on Wednesday when she narrated the story of her alleged se-xual abuse by former employer Jah Prayzah.
She began with a disclaimer. “I did not want this information to go public. I just got angry in a meeting last week and spilled the beans in front of other people. We were only five in the meeting and tempers flared until I reminded him about his sex escapades in anger.
“It is embarrassing to share a story of sexual abuse with the world and I thought the issue would end in the meeting. I was surprised to see a story about it in a newspaper and I feel so bad, but I don’t have anything to hide anymore,” she said.
Gonyeti was referring to a story published by our sister paper H-Metro on Tuesday in which Jah Prayzah’s lawyer Eddie Hamunakwadi was quoted as saying she was seeking compensation for sexual abuse in addition to claiming outstanding unpaid fees for her services in the band.
The gorgeous vocalist denies asking for compensation for sexual abuse and said she is heartbroken because the issue has gone public. She said all she wanted was to get her outstanding allowances for the work she did for the band.
She admitted having been abused sexually without protection by Jah Prayzah on numerous occasions for the past three years to safeguard her job, but insisted she had no plans to make the sensitive issue public.
“Many women do not disclose issues related to sexual abuse because they are afraid of stigmatisation. I was one of them. What will people say when they know Jah Prayzah had sexually abused me without protection? I had to live with it. I had to please my paymaster.
“Now they have told the world about it and the most painful thing is that Jah Prayzah is saying I am lying. Why would I lie that I slept with him? Why would I lie to embarrass myself . . . ” for a moment she could not continue as she wept uncontrollably.
Gonyeti said the sexual abuse was the main reason why she left Jah Prayzah’s Third Generation band.
“I asked myself why I was hanging on when I was being abused in many ways. I was a sex slave and I was also not getting paid for my services in the band. I just had to keep pleasing my master with my body, my voice and my energy for nothing. I just said ‘enough is enough’ and I quit the band. Honestly, the issue of sexual abuse was personal. Now they have told the world about it and everyone will see me as a dirty person.”
The energetic dancer said during tours, other band members would share hotel rooms and Jah Prayzah, as the boss, was always booked alone and he abused that scenario to have quality time with his subordinate before and after shows.
“I always shared the room with Stimela (Fatima Katiji, the other female vocalist) and I would be called to the boss’ room and leave her alone. We also met at various places in Harare during the week when we were off duty. That was the life I led at Third Generation. It was risky because I knew many other girls that Jah Prayzah was involved with.
“He has many girlfriends among his fans and we knew most of them. When such a person continuously demands unprotected sex, it becomes dangerous. He says he does not fear contracting any sexually-transmitted infections because he is circumcised.”
Gonyeti said she is now being terrorised by some of Jah Prayzah’s female fans on social media.
“I left the fans’ WhatsApp group and they continue adding my number and using abusive language towards me. Some of the ladies say there is nothing special about being sexually abused because they have also slept with Jah Prayzah.”
As her voice cracked and tears rolled down her cheeks, Gonyeti said she regrets being involved with Third Generation because the memories will haunt her forever, especially because the issue is now public.
She said when she first saw Jah Prayzah as an unknown artiste and assisted him to record his first albums, she did not know the relationship would grow into a sad tale.
I first met him at Jazz 105 when he was a supporting artiste to our band Jabavu Drive. I was the lead singer at Jabavu Drive and he liked my voice. He asked me to do backing vocals for him in the studio and I did most of his early songs including the album ‘Ngwarira Kuparara’ before I even joined his band.
“My first album as a full-time band member was ‘Tsviriyo’. The relationship began professionally, but he took advantage of his growing fame to abuse me.”
She said she is taking a legal route to recover her salary arrears and would not want her attention to be distracted from the real cause of her confrontation with her former employer.
Efforts to get a comment from Jah Prayzah were unsuccessful as he is currently in South Africa shooting a video for the track “Mdhara Vachauya”.
However, Gonyeti who now fronts her own band called Horse Power said she will soldier on despite the emotional spell and focus on her solo career.
“This is a trying time, but I have to look ahead. I have a career to maintain and I will not make it if this issue affects me emotionally to a level where I cannot concentrate on my own projects.
“We are moving on and I am glad with the assistance I am getting from my manager Filda Muchabaiwa. We hope things will work well. We cannot continue dwelling on the past yet we want to move forward.”
Muchabaiwa — popularly known as Mama Filo — was Jah Prayzah’s manager when he was still chasing fame and she said she is disappointed by his approach to the Gonyeti issue.
. . . who is Pamela Zulu?
Pamela “Gonyeti” Zulu was born in 1986 in Victoria Falls in a family of three girls and one boy. She attended Chinotimba Primary and Mosi oa Tunya Secondary schools, but dropped from her studies in Form Two when she fell pregnant. Both her parents died when she was still young.
She had interest in music at school and a neighbour discovered her vocal prowess and invited her to join Mulura Jazz Band that was based in the resort town.
Pamela worked with the band for three years before relocating to Harare where she joined Summer Breeze as lead vocalist.
Another jazz band Jabavu Drive enlisted her services and she would alternate between the two bands.
She met Jah Prayzah at Jazz 105 when he was curtain-raising for Jabavu Drive and he admired her voice and took her as a backing vocalist for her songs in the studio.
In 2013 there was a vacancy for a female backing vocalist in Jah Prayzah’s Third Generation Band and she joined the group. She got the nickname Gonyeti because of her huge body and energy on stage.
She learnt her trademark energetic dances at Jah Prayzah’s band since she was coming from a jazz background.
Pamela toured many parts of the country with Third Generation and also went for international tours to countries like United Kingdom, Australia, Botswana and South Africa. She left Jah Prayzah’s group in August this year citing unfavourable working conditions and abuse to form her own band called Horse Power.
The band has so far performed at various venues in Harare and she is working on her album that will be released soon.
Pamela is a single mother of two children aged 15 and 5 years.