27 June 2016 – BORN 40 years ago, in humble beginnings, Pretoria based Zimbabwean comedian Pepukai Zvemhari aka Baba Tenen is now truly living the South African dream, having started the Kuripwa Kugara brand, being the brand ambassador of corporate companies and having thousands of followers worldwide on social media.
Also to his name, Baba Tensen has started to do collaborations with several comedians in Zimbabwe such as Doc Vickela and Clive – in South Africa and has now gone international with a show with the Ugandan queen of comedy Anne Kasiime on August 6 in Harare at Rainbow Towers Hotel.
But however his meteoric rise to fame has been no joke (no pun intended) given his difficult childhood, which saw him do a stint as a herdboy followed by a brief career as a cross border trader.
“My life is changed a lot in 2016. I can say God has been great. I get booked a lot and also do endorsements,” says the comedian who is the fifth born in a family of nine.
After moving to from one place to another in rural Masvingo, being raised by a drunkard father , his parent divorcing, then having to be raised by a single mother, Baba Tencen had at one point to drop out of school because there was no money for school fees, forcing the comedian to be herdboy.
“When my parents separated, my mother took me to her family home where I struggled for a good three years not going to school. Just having to put food on the table was a struggle forcing to do menial jobs and herding cattle in Chibi Makotose Sese area,” narrates Baba Tencen.
But the then young Baba Tencen was passionate about continuing his education that he finally went back to school in 1993 paying for himself for his last two years of primary school, until completing his O’ Levels in 1998 where managed to pass eight subjects.
After that Baba Tencen became a cross border trader, buying clothes and electrical gadgets from neighbouring countries from resale in Shurugwi.
“That was the beginning of myself as true Pepukai . I didn’t go ahead with my education because of financial challenges, and thats when I started doing cross-border trading importing clothes and electrical gadgets.
Baba Tencen, who is rather withdrawn about his private life got married in 2004 and has two children Tencen and Tensile, has lived in Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique before settling in South Africa in 2006.
Unlike most Zimbabweans living south of the Limpopo, he refuses to describe himself as an economic refugee, arguing that he had always been poor anyway but had just always wanted to work outside his home country
“I didn’t leave Zimbabwe because of any reason but it was my passion to work outside the country. I can not be called an economic refugee, because I poor anyways even before things changed,” he explains adding that he upon arriving in SA, he got himself a job in the hospitality industry .
However as fate would have it the comedian, who describes himself as very talkative was messing around with a friend who filmed a video clip of him, cracking jokes, which he uploaded on FaceBook.
To his surprise the video clip got a lot of hits, that they decided to do another one that went viral .
”That was even before I started using Facebook. I didn’t event know about YouTube, Twitter, Instagram etc and the positive response I got was a shock to me. So when the second video, also went viral.I decided to make a DVD which I personally sold, quit my job and became a full time comedian.”
After selling his videos for a year Baba Tencen met Tendai Joe, who became his manager and video producer, who set him up on social media platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook and Instagram.
But Joe not only manages and produces his videos professionally but became his source of strength and encouragement.
“He made me to know who I m in this world and promised me what I had never dream’t of but truly all became beyond. He stood by me all the way spent time with me branding me.”
The entrance of Joe also led to another milestone to Baba Tencen’s career as he introduced him to popular Harare socialite Sir Wicknell, who gave the comedian a whopping R100 000 “for making him laugh.”
Says Baba Tencen: “The gesture by Wicknell was one of the greatest in my career. It was like a joke, as we had made a video about him, just for fun and never expected him to contact us. When he contacted me and told me that he was in the US and would indeed honour his pledge I immediately contacted my manager and all was confirmed.”
“The money I got from Sir Wicknell marked my bright journey to my brand as Kuripwa now. Now it’s my daily living job just making my comedy day in and day out. I don’t think what to say all I need is a camera then I can comment on anything funny,” says the wide tooth gapped comedian.
Baba Tencen who is now full time into comedy, also doing EmCeeing, StandUp Comedy and brand endorsements, clearly has a big heart too as he is planning to donate some of the money from Sir Wicknell to charity. – Patience Rusere