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Sam Mtukudzi, Owen Chimhare Laid to Rest

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{dropcap}S{/dropcap}am Mtukudzi and Owen Chimhare were buried this afternoon at Warren Hills Cemetery in Harare. Their graves were, as the two had lived in the last years of their lives, side by side.

Over two thousand people converged at Pakare Paye Arts Centre in the morning for a final service. They included government ministers Webster Shamu, Saviour Kasukuwere, Nelson Chamisa and Patrick Zhuwawo. Also present were diplomats, sports personalities and representatives from the arts industry.

Artists who worked with Sam and Owen weep for their friends

^ Artists who worked with Sam and Owen weep for their friends. Left to right: John Pfumojena (who also went to Prince Edward School with Sam), Zanele Manhenga, Maylene Chenjerai and an unidentified friend.

The most visible group of people however were members of the music sector, who came in their numbers to say farewell to two of their own. From yesteryear greats like Friday Mbirimi, Mechanic Manyeruke and Prince Tendai Mparutsta to current crowd-pulling legends like Alick Macheso, Tongai Moyo and Suluman Chimbetu they were all there.

Extra Large, Sister Flame, Victor Kunonga, Taku Mafika, Dudu Manhenga, Zanele Manhenga, Leonard Mapfumo, Hope Masike, Rute Mbangwa, Dino Mudondo, Farai Comrade Fatso Munro, Blessing Muparutsa, Bob Nyabinde, Albert Nyathi, John Pfumojena, Thanda Richardson, Willom Tight and Willis Wataffi were some of the musicians who were present at the funeral.

The Mtukudzis speak at the funeral

^ The Mtukudzis speak at the funeral.

The arts fraternity in general was also represented well. Director of the National Arts Council, Mr Elvas Mari, Daves Guzha, Chirikure Chirikure, Partson Chimbodza, Barbara Auntie Red Rose Chikosi, Tinopona Katsande, Leslie Tongai Outspoken Makawa, Tatenda Mavetera and many others came to mourn with the Mtukudzi and Chimhare families.

{dropcap}S{/dropcap}peaking at the funeral, Mrs Mtukudzi related how she had initially wanted her son to be a pilot. She said that Sam and Owen were good friends. “Even when we were travelling in Europe and we bought something for Sam, he would ask, ‘How about Owen?’ Then we’d have to run around and find something for him as well,” said the visibly distraught mother.  “When I needed help and Sam was busy, he’d call Owen and ask him to assist me. I have lost two sons.”

Tuku told the crowd about Sam’s love for music. He related how he first realised that his son had a gift when he heard him play at a school concert. Later on though, at high school, Prince Edward in Harare, he and Mrs Mtukudzi were disappointed that Sam spent so much time doing music that he didn’t do well academically. They decided to send him to a rural school, Chindunduma High, where there was no music on the curriculum. Owen was attending the same school and it was there that their friendship blossomed.

Minister Shamu consoles the Mtukudzis.

^ Minister Shamu (left) consoles the Mtukudzis. To the right are Musicians Mechanic Manyeruke and Albert Nyathi.

“We took him to a school where there was no music,” said Tuku, “so that he could concentrate on school. However, to our surprise, when we visited the school we found the teachers applauding Sam and Owen saying they have introduced music here.” This drew laughter from the crowd, creating one of the light moments at what was a very sombre occasion.

Tuku drew many tears at the end of his talk though when turned and faced the coffins and called out loudly: “Samson! Samson! Urikupi ko mwanangu? Kana usiri kudzoka kumba ufambe zvakanaka. Owen, Mazvimbakupa, ndangandichida kuti mudzoke kumba, imi makugumura pabridge. Vanhu vese varipano vapupura kuti murivana wakanaka. Musaite musikanzwa ikoko. Fambai zvakanaka vana vangu (Samson! Samson! Where are you my son. If you are not coming back, go well. Owen, Mazvimbakupa (Owen’s family totem), I wanted you to come back home, but you ended at the bridge. Everyone here has said that you are good children. Don’t be naughty there! Go well my children.”

As he said this, there were wails from the crowd, and on the stage, where the family members were seated, the grief poured out. Selmor and Samantha, Sam’s sisters stepped forward as it seemed their father would break down and stood on either side of him, arms around him. They were joined by three other female members of the family and wept together. Then they led Tuku back to his seat.

Part of the crowd that came to Pakare Paye Arts Centre for the funeral

^ Part of the crowd that came to Pakare Paye Arts Centre for the funeral.

As the speeches came, one after the other, it became apparent that Owen Chimhare who many people knew up to now as Sam Mtukudzi’s sound engineer, was like an older brother, the closest friend that Sam had and an ally in bits of mischief, making music, and life in general.

There were more light moments when Minister Shamu stood up to speak and created an impromptu musical band featuring some of the older artists present. They sang two songs before the minister called more artists onto stage and spoke about the importance of the spiritual dimension of our lives. He said that artists had an important job of entertaining us but we should never forget that the most powerful being was God.

{dropcap}A{/dropcap}fter the speeches there was the body viewing and a scramble ensued as people realised that there was not going to be enough time for everyone to see the bodies. The master of ceremonies pleaded for patience and calm then called out for assistance from security as the jostling continued. He rebuked the crowd for not showing respect at an event like this. “Even at a funeral you want to push and shove,” he said in Shona. In the end he ordered that the coffins be closed.

.Viewing the bodies for the last time

^ Tuku, wife and family members view the bodies for the last time.

This drew many complaints from people, some of whom screamed out that they had come from as far as Kwekwe and Bulawayo for the funeral.

The coffins were reopened briefly for the Mtukudzi and Chimhare families to do their final viewing. A few more people managed to get a chance to view the bodies before the coffins were closed again and taken away.

A police led convoy of over fifty vehicles including two hearses carrying the coffins and buses supplied by Jimmy Jimalo Chiyangwa made it’s way from Pakare Paye Arts Centre just after 1410hrs (GMT+2) and headed to Warren Hills Cemetery, about 30 kilometres away on the outskirts of Harare. More vehicles followed and police had a busy afternoon directing traffic at the turn-off to the cemetery.

The two coffins

^ The two coffins, Owen on the left and Sam on the right.

At the burial site, thousands of people gathered round the two graves. At around 1530hrs, the coffins were lowered into the ground as more wails of grief rang through the hills of Warren Park.

We buried them in the hills

^ We buried them in the hills.

What we saw today touched us to the core. Family members breaking down in disbelief. Artists who had worked with Sam and Owen, male and female, wailing in pain, tears streaming down their faces. A crowd of people pushing for their lives just to get one last look, one last brief moment to say hello- and goodbye. A music icon and his wife, shattered to the soul, whom we realised are just parents like millions of others around the world, who simply wanted the best for their son, and who lost him when they least expected it.

To quote Tuku this afternoon. “The mistake I made was thinking he was mine forever.” We too, all too often make that mistake. Life is fleeting.

To Sam and Owen, rest in peace.

- Fungai Tichawangana for The Zimbo Jam


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