Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi a national hero.
Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi who died at 66, was a Zimbabwean musician, businessman, philanthropist, human rights activist & UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Southern Africa Region. He was considered to have been Zimbabwe's most renowned & internationally recognized cultural icon of all time.
Mnangagwa announced the hero status while addressing mourners at the Mtukudzi residence in Norton just outside Harare on Thursday evening.
“Zanu-PF and the government of Zimbabwe have unanimously agreed that this man is a national hero,” he said.
“From this moment onward, this funeral is now the responsibility of the government of Zimbabwe.”
Tuku, as the late legend was affectionately called, becomes the fourth non-political figure to be conferred hero status.
The other figures are philanthropist Jairos Jiri, former chief secretary to Robert Mugabe’s cabinet, Dr. Charles Utete, and National University of Science and Technology founding vice-chancellor, Professor Phineas Makhurane.
National hero status is the highest honor that can be conferred on an individual and the recipients are entitled to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre.
The hero status is conferred by the president, “where the President considers that any deceased person who was a citizen of Zimbabwe has deserved well of his country on account of outstanding, distinctive and distinguished service,” reads the National Heroes Act.
The call for hero status on Tuku was officially made by the country’s arts regulating the body, the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, and Norton legislator Temba Mliswa.
Zimbabweans on various social networking sites had also made a unanimous declaration, making Mtukudzi the people’s hero.
The death of the 66-year-old musician has united Zimbabweans and Thursday saw politicians from across the divide visiting his homestead to pay their last respects.
Mnangagwa was accompanied by ministers Oppah Muchinguri (defense), Ziyambi Ziyambi (justice) and Monica Mutsvangwa (information), and Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Valerio Sibanda, police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services boss Paradzayi Zimondi.
Prominent musicians Alick Macheso, Zex Manatsa, Mechanic Manyeruke, Nicholas Zakaria and Thomas Mapfumo also visited the Tuku homestead.
Opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who also went to Mtukudzi’s homestead earlier before Mnangagwa, had already declared Tuku a hero, saying a “hero is not because he has passed on, but because he always was, even before his final rest”.
“That the people’s legend Oliver Mtukudzi is a people’s hero is beyond deliberation. For such a plain fact, we, mere mortals, can only acknowledge as we all hereby do,” he said.
Mnangagwa said the burial date would be set by the family.