The people of Matabeleland have questioned the granting of state-assisted funeral for the late arts icon, Cont Mhlanga, who passed away on Monday, with some suggesting that he should have been declared a hero.
Mhlanga, who founded Amakhosi Theatre, will be buried at his rural home in Lupane on Saturday.
Speaking on This Morning on Asakhe, a CITE online programme Wednesday, participants said Matabeleland heroes continued to be side-lined by the government.
“To me, this issue doesn’t make sense because one of the things that are happening is if you put someone to be a national hero, it must be written somewhere in the books of history where they are constantly being honoured as a person or in that field where they are being recognized for but if you give them money for the state-assisted funeral, that’s the end,” said Njabulo.
“They will just write down and say we released such an amount of money as the Zimbabwean government and gave Cont’s family for burial. But for a hero today, we are still speaking of Soul Jah Love, we’re still speaking of all the heroes that we know. So your legacy carries forward more than just being given money.”
He added: “For the state-assisted funeral, it’s like someone says, you have lost a loved one. Let’s help you cover funeral expenses but when it comes to you being recognized, I believe it is more important than just being given money as donations.”
Thandazani Moyo said there is too much selective application of recognition in Zimbabwe especially when one is from a minority tribe.
“The continuation of running away from those facts will not help us,” he said.
“What is the difference by the way between Soul Jah Love and ubaba uMhlanga? Mhlanga was a community member, Mhlanga stood for the masses, Mhlanga stood for the marginalised, stood for the oppressed; he spoke for the oppressed. Then you look at Soul Jah Love. Yes I actually loved Soul Jah Love. I used to play his music, I still do that but why should he be accorded that status when you don’t get it for Mhlanga. What is the difference then?”
He added: “You would find the contributions for Mhlanga are much more than those of Soul Jah Love but he was given that status because he was affiliated with a certain narrative that was being pushed by certain people at the time. So, this is the problem that we are facing at the moment.”
Nkosikhona Dibiti said there was a need for Matabeleland to organise events to celebrate its heroes without the involvement of the government.
“Mhlanga’s works speak for themselves; there no need for us to beg ZANU-PF to grant him a hero status,” he said
“Instead he should have been assisted with medical bills while he was still alive.”
Sonke Senda-Bhebhe said Mhlanga had been an icon for a very long time.
“It is a blessing that he wasn’t given that (hero status) because it gives us the chance as Matabeleland to make him our own hero,” she said.
“In our nation of uMthwakazi, he is a hero and that is big enough.”