BY SHARON SIBINDI
Many showbiz followers are calling for the recognition of arts doyen Cont Mhlanga, who is widely touted as the “King of Zimbabwean Theatre” with an honorary doctorate for his contribution to the arts industry.
Regarded as the pioneer of arts in Zimbabwe, Mhlanga has been in the arts industry for over three decades and wrote more than 20 plays such as The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire and Vikela and has three books to his name.
A former actor in some of the Mhlanga’s Amakhosi Theatre Productions, Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu on Sunday took to Facebook to advocate for the honour.
“I just want to hear your honest opinion. Are we waiting for the “King of Zimbabwean Theatre” to die for us to honour him with an honorary doctorate? This is the king of Zimbabwe theatre by any standards. #malumeisking#honorarydegreeformalume”,” he wrote.
The post attracted a wide response with some people such as Charlton Tsodzo, who said the process of conferring a doctor honoris causa should involve peers of the potential recipient.
“They need to develop a citation which is used for the lobby, so it may be useful if recognised arts bodies, statutory bodies or any other formal bodies, say National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, the Bulawayo Art Gallery even the city council, could spearhead the pooling together of peers to formally lodge the citation,” he said.
“I think brother Cont has sufficient reference and is worthy of being an honouree. Lupane University would make a good State university for conferment because of its arts and heritage culture inclination, but any other university could still work, really. I have worked with Cont in the sector and would be thrilled to have my name up as a peer or signatory to such a petition.”
Public relations practitioner and radio personality Lenox Mhlanga said he worked with Mhlanga, adding that his wisdom was a national treasure.
“I have worked with uMalume (Mhlanga), picked his brains and seen his works. There is no doubting his genius. He is also a very disciplined and principled man, a quality that is in short supply among our leadership,” he said.
“As a result, there are those who regard him as an infernal threat to their overblown egos. His wisdom is a national treasure.”
Seasoned stand-up comedian, singer and actor Edgar Hendrick Langeveldt said Mhlanga deserved it all: “This man deserves it all. As a Fellow Prins Claus Laureate, I recommend Zimbabwe to honour him more than foreigners have already done.”
Politician Fortune Daniel Molokele shared the same sentiments, saying there was need to lobby like-minded organisations to take the lead in the campaign to honour Mhlanga.
“Let us lobby the Bulawayo National Arts Council and the Bulawayo City Council to take the lead on this. This applies to all other legends like Peter Ndlovu (footballer) and Lovemore Majaivana (musician),” he said.
Boniface Hlabano said Mhlanga deserved the honours.
“I personally benefited from his training and mentorship in setting up and running a drama group (Abahlengi Babatsha-Lupane/Hwange), using the Theatre for Community Development-TCA approach to carry out a very successful youth sexual and reproductive health programme with Lubhancho House,” he said.
Ndlovu said tomorrow that they would take the issue for further discussion on social media platforms.