PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday declared the late music superstar, Oliver Mtukudzi popularly known as Tuku, a national hero, making him the first artist to receive such a high honour.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
Tuku, who was reportedly battling a heart ailment and diabetes, died at the Avenues Clinic in Harare on Wednesday at the age of 66.
Mnangagwa, who led a high-powered delegation to pay condolences to Tuku at his residence in Norton, told mourners last night that the decision to honour the musician with the hero status was unanimously made by Zanu PF and the government.
“We had a meeting with some of the members who are here and no one among the leadership opposed the idea to honour Tuku, as everyone agreed to the decision, with everyone saying ‘yes’. Even those whom I had not consulted started to say ‘yes, yes, yes’,” he said. “For some whom we wanted to honour, we would debate and debate, with some agreeing and others opposing to an extent that the youths would give up in honour of the elders’ ideas and they would agree and you could see that we have forced the youths, but on this one, no one was forced for the idea.”
The Zanu PF leader said Tuku was an international icon who was loved by millions.
“As Zanu PF party, the government of Zimbabwe and the President of Zimbabwe and the entire Zimbabwe family we are representing, we have agreed that Tuku is a hero and we agreed to accord him a national hero status,” he said.
Mnangagwa said Tuku’s family and Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema would discuss the burial arrangements, which will be announced in due course.
“Even if we have declared him a national hero, we have no powers on Tuku’s family. We will leave it to the family to lead on the burial arrangements that will be announced to us and (Information minister) Monica Mutsvangwa will let the nation know,” he said.
This comes amid reports the family wants him buried at his Madziva rural home on Sunday.
Mnangagwa said even Namibian President Hage Geingob had expressed sadness at Tuku’s passing on.
The Zanu PF leader was accompanied by Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri, Ziyambi Ziyambi (Justice) and Mutsvangwa, as well as Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Valerio Sibanda, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services boss Paradzayi Zimondi.
Earlier during the afternoon, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Chimurenga music star Thomas Mapfumo also paid their respects to Tuku.
Chamisa said Tuku was a unifier and committed to the development of the country and the arts industry in particular.
Former Prime Minister and late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s family also joined Zimbabweans in mourning Tuku, describing him as a people’s hero.
The family’s spokesperson, Manase Tsvangirai, said his family was at a loss of words to describe the sense of loss his family felt.
“Oliver has inspired Zimbabwe’s social struggle through his music and, as a family, we felt his deep warmth when he, against all odds, attended our late brother Morgan Tsvangirai’s burial and did a loving rendition of Neria, one of his greatest songs, to comfort us,” Tsvangirai said.