Mercedes Rambo the Co­me­dian!

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

AT WEST Park Ceme­tery in Bu­l­awayo lies one of the leg­endary High­landers and na­tional team stal­warts Mercedes Nk­ila “Rambo” Sibanda who passed on in 2002.

The star de­fender is sur­vived by four chil­dren Leonah (33), Ni­cole (30) Keith (29) and Natasha (27).

Sun­day Life Sport caught up with Leonah who re­vealed that she stayed with her late fa­ther to­gether with her late grand­fa­ther Jonathan Sibanda at their fam­ily house in Mzilikazi sub­urb for more than a decade.

“I stayed with my dad for more than 10 years and what I can tell you is that my fa­ther was a peo­ple’s per­son who was down to earth and could get along with any­one re­gard­less of so­cial class. He was al­ways in a jovial mood and was fond of crack­ing jokes,” she re­veals.

Leonah says her fa­ther was an ec­cen­tric per­son who even did funny things at times.

“When his best friends Rah­man (Gumbo) and Wil­lard (Khu­malo) came to visit us in the morn­ing my fa­ther would climb on the roof of the house with his break­fast and he would shout on top of his voice say­ing angikho (I am not around). He would then eat his break­fast while sit­ting on the roof. Rah and Wil­lard would laugh that off,” she says.

Leona says her fa­ther was a lov­ing per­son who used to say they should get mar­ried and stay with their hus­bands at the fam­ily house.

“My fa­ther used to say if un­jwathi wakho se­funa ukukuthatha (used to call our boyfriends on­jwathi — be­cause they do not have money) he should come and stay here and would take care of us. He em­pha­sised that on many oc­ca­sions,” she says.

It is not in the pub­lic do­main that Mercedes had a sec­ond name — Nk­ila. Leonah re­veals that although her fa­ther hated the name so much de­spite that her grand­fa­ther would call him Nk­ila.

“My grand­fa­ther used to call him Nk­ila and he would get an­gry and tell him that he does not like his sec­ond name. But my grand­fa­ther would tell him that the name is of sig­nif­i­cance be­cause it car­ried iden­tity value about where he comes from and should not dis­card it,” she says.

Due to that the sec­ond name was only a pre­serve of his fa­ther. Even those brave rel­a­tives did not dare call Rambo by his sec­ond name but only his fa­ther did. Leonah re­veals that his grand­fa­ther was orig­i­nally from Zam­bia and came to Zim­babwe in search for greener pas­tures. A few peo­ple know that Wil­lard Khu­malo the High­landers and na­tional team leg­endary player and Rambo were cousins.

“Wil­lard’s mother and my late grand­fa­ther were born to the same par­ents. So Wil­lard’s mother is my grand­mother,” she says.

Leonah went on to say Rah­man Gumbo and Wil­lard were his fa­ther’s close friends .

“They were al­ways here from time to time and even now Un­cle Rah vis­its us and has been like a fa­ther fig­ure to us,” she says.

By virtue of hav­ing stayed with her fa­ther for quite a long time Leonah is bet­ter placed to know the likes and dis­likes of her dear­est fa­ther. She says his fa­ther was an ar­dent Reg­gae fan.

“My dad liked reg­gae mu­sic so much that he would play it when­ever he was at home. He liked Gre­gory Isaacs, par­tic­u­larly the pop­u­lar song Night Nurse and Peter Tosh and quite of­ten he would play the song Step­ping Ra­zor. Af­ter that he would sit un­der a tree and smoke and that be­came his life­style,” she re­veals.

She adds, “My fa­ther also loved beer, par­tic­u­larly brown bot­tle.”

Leonah says her fa­ther was an avid fan of ac­tor and pro­ducer Sylvester “Rambo” Stal­lone. Stal­lone is best known for por­tray­ing two heroic char­ac­ters on the big screen — boxer Rocky Bal­boa and Viet­nam War vet­eran John Rambo.

Leonah firmly be­lieves her fa­ther earned the nick name Rambo due to his pas­sion­ate love of Stal­lone movies and his physique.

“Dad liked Stal­lone movies. He liked par­tic­u­larly John Rambo as a re­sult his friends would call him Rambo, there­after the nick­name gained promi­nence,” she ex­plains.

She says her fa­ther was a bread­win­ner and a pil­lar of strength to the fam­ily. Leonah says when he (her dad) was un­der the weather “things” be­came dif­fi­cult for them at home. But the High­landers ex­ec­u­tive were there for them at the time of need.

“When­ever we faced any prob­lem, be it med­i­ca­tion for my fa­ther or money to pay hos­pi­tal bills or food we would call High­landers and they would swiftly send Sibanda (Maphepha) who would come with Delma Lu­pepe. They would bring us gro­ceries and money,” she says.

As a re­sult Leonah holds High­landers in­sti­tu­tion in high re­gard and says they were there for them dur­ing the dark­est hour of their life when the sun had set on them.

“My grand­fa­ther and I thought we would face chal­lenges in lay­ing to rest my fa­ther since we had no money. Luck­ily when we phoned High­landers ex­ec­u­tive they un­der­stood our dire sit­u­a­tion and han­dled the en­tire burial process. They proved to us that they val­ued the im­mense con­tri­bu­tion that my fa­ther gave to the club since the in­cep­tion of his glow­ing ca­reer up to the time he re­tired,” she re­veals.

As a re­sult Leonah re­veals that all of Rambo’s four chil­dren are ar­dent sup­port­ers of High­landers.

“Due to the kind ges­ture that the High­landers club showed us dur­ing my fa­ther’s sick­ness and dur­ing his burial, the four of us de­cided to make a vow that we would sup­port High­landers. I’m par­tic­u­larly an ar­dent sup­porter of High­landers and I’m al­ways there at Bar­bour­fields when Bosso is play­ing,” she says.

For­mer High­landers goal min­der Jo­hannes Tshuma de­scribed Rambo as some who was a worka­holic.

“He would drink beer but would sur­prise many of us as he would come early for train­ing. When we were train­ing he would wake up early in the morn­ing and go to a se­cluded place where he would smoke and it was his sta­ple thing when we were at camp,” he says.

His glit­ter­ing ca­reer saw him be­com­ing a per­ma­nent mem­ber of High­landers first team and the na­tional team mostly when it was un­der coach Rein­hard Fabisch.

Leonah Sibanda and (in­set) her late fa­ther Mercedes “Rambo” Sibanda

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