JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Oliver Mtukudzi was loved across the world – by presidents, government ministers and leaders of political parties.
The legend’s death on Wednesday brought an outpouring of tributes, with prominent political leaders paying homage to his talent.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Mtukudzi, who died aged 66, had “fired up all of Africa”.
“Deeply saddened to learn of the passing of music legend and human rights activist Oliver Mtukudzi. He is immortalised through the contribution he made to the arts, with talent that fired up all of Africa. Deepest condolences to his loved ones. From his No. 1 fan in the whole world,” Ramaphosa said in a tweet sent from Davos, Switzerland.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma said Mtukudzi united people across borders with his music.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of the legend, Oliver Mtukudzi. His music has carried us through some of our darkest and happiest times, it has also united us across borders. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends. Zorora murugare, dear Tuku,” Zuma said on Twitter.
Kenya’s main opposition leader Raila Odinga said: “Your question rendered in lyrics, ‘What Shall We Do?’ may still have no answer. But be assured Africa and the world are struggling with it even as we accept the finality of your death. We will miss your enthralling performances and salute you. Rest in peace Oliver Mtukudzi.”
South Africa’s Arts Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Mtukudzi gave followers of his music “hope during our darkest hour.”
“A giant of African music has fallen with the passing of legendary musician, the one and only, Oliver Mtukudzi. From the depths of Harare his career blossomed like the flame lily flower and his artistic genius brought us together in good times and gave us hope during our darkest hour.”
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said Tuku, as he was affectionately known by his fans, was a “calabash of wisdom”.
“To me a father and counselor. To the nation, an advisor and ambassador to generations. To the world, a peace icon, a bundle of talent, calabash of wisdom. You gave your all to us all. You consoled, counselled and entertained Zimbabwe and beyond. You will be sorely missed Samanyanga!,” Chamisa tweeted.
A Twitter account in the name of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which his spokesman says should not be relied on as reflective of his thoughts, said: “Today we said goodbye to a true patriot. Oliver Mtukudzi, your voice has given us comfort during difficult times, and will remain with us for posterity. Rest in peace comrade.”
South Africa’s opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party said Mtukudzi consoled his fans even before his death.
“In his famous work, Neria, Tuku already prepares us and our hearts on the passing of a husband, a lover. He extols the virtue of a strong heart in the hour of human loss to death. Tuku paints death as jealous, and calls on the widow to be strong in her heart, because God is with her. We are Neria, the woman who has lost Tuku,” the EFF said in a statement.
The party said Mtukudzi’s death came as Zimbabwe, “his love and pride, is facing violent winds of social injustice.”
“He falls when the ordinary, defenceless citizen, is facing gun carrying soldiers who seek to suppress a free human spirit. He falls in the hour when hope is most urgent in the body politic of his people,” the party said, urging Zimbabweans not to be dishearted in their struggle for democracy.
“We shall drink forever from Tuku’s musical genius, both as the people of the South, and the world.”