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Mtukudzi's ugly family split

by City Press
28 Jan 2019 at 19:34hrs | Views
Mtukudzi's casket at the family homestead in Norton
Clashes over funeral arrangements for the revered musician have exposed long-standing rifts and a reconciliation.

It was on a hot Wednesday afternoon that a beleaguered Zimbabwe began to come to grips with the sad news that its beloved and iconic jazz superstar, Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, had departed for good. Mtukudzi, who suffered from diabetes, was 66 years old. He left behind as many albums.

Surviving him are his wife, Daisy Mtukudzi, his ex-wife Melody Murape and children from both marriages.

For a moment, even the events of the past week – when violent protests over fuel price hikes threatened to bring the country to a standstill – were put on hold as political leaders, artists and fans alike honoured the legendary musician who had fought publicly for unity, equality and peace throughout his life.

Family at war

In private, though, Mtukudzi was beset by family fights and divisions. This became increasingly evident as the week progressed and the family clashed over where he should be buried – in the National Heroes Acre in Harare or at his rural Madziwa village homestead.

"Nothing could be resolved until the arrival of his two daughters, Selmor and Sandra, from London. And even after their arrival, it took a long time to deliberate on his burial," said a family friend who was part of the deliberations.

Tensions were fuelled on Thursday, after President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the musician a national hero, following a meeting with Zanu-PF's politburo. This made Heroes Acre an obvious choice. He was the first-ever artist on the list.

But among those who were opposed to this plan was Tuku's aunt, Eunice Mtukudzi, who lives in Madziwa. She said it was not proper for him to be buried in Harare, defying his own wishes and the traditions of his own people.

"In the end, it was decided that his wishes be respected [that he be laid to rest in Madziwa] – but it was not an easy decision," said the family friend.

The family divisions have deep roots. Mtukudzi and his daughter from his first marriage, Selmor, were not on speaking terms for nearly four years after differences emerged over the way in which Daisy was managing the family affairs.

Mtukudzi's first wife, Murape, opened up to City Press on Friday, saying the stand-off between her daughter, Selmor, and the musician had threatened to tear the family apart. "I had to intervene as a mother of his children because it was getting out of hand. It raged on for years, until I knocked some sense into Selmor's head.

"After that, they were okay and just a few days before his death, Selmor was here [at the Mtukudzi homestead in Norton, just outside Harare] visiting her father before flying out to London," Murape said.

Selmor is a musician in her own right and is married to Tendai Manatsa, the son of iconic musician Zexie Manatsa.

"She was unhappy with her stepmom and she expressed this openly," said another family member.

"She often complained that Oliver was neglecting his children from the first marriage. This changed after the death of his son, Sam, who died in a car accident in 2010. That is when he realised that he needed to reunite the family."

Mtukudzi left behind a considerable fortune and numerous properties, his relatives told City Press.

Family members said they had agreed to handle his estate peacefully after his burial.

A nation in mourning

Finally, on Friday, it was announced that Mtukudzi's official funeral would take place in Madziwa on Sunday.

Once the decision was reached, funeral plans progressed hastily, with most of the family being opposed to government input on proceedings.

Mtukudzi, perceived to be critical of former president Robert Mugabe for overstaying his welcome as a leader, had a long-standing grievance with the state for not being granted a diplomatic passport, despite being named a goodwill ambassador for the UN International Children's Emergency Fund. Fellow artist and close friend Albert Nyathi said this issue had always troubled Mtukudzi.

Across the region, women wore black and doeks on Friday in honour of the father figure and global jazz star, their photos going viral on social media.

A funeral wake in Norton on Friday drew throngs of people, who had been touched by Tuku's words and songs. And on Saturday, a send-off concert, featuring Zimbabwe's leading artists, was held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition party MDC Alliance, told City Press that "in life and in death, Tuku is a unifier, a uniting force who deserves respect in every aspect". .

"We will honour him through opening up dialogue to find lasting solutions for the crisis that our nation has become, from an economic and political perspective," added Chamisa.

Said celebrated fellow musician Thomas Mapfumo, while visiting the family home: "I hope that our leaders grasp his desires and yearning for peace and build the country around peace and harmony."

Piki Kasamba, an old friend and a former member of Mtukudzi's band, the Black Spirits, told City Press that Tuku yearned to see a progressive Zimbabwe, whose people lived up to their full potential.

Source - City Press

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