BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
Government has granted a State-assisted funeral for the late musician Zexie Manatsa despite calls for him to be declared liberation hero. The legendary musician succumbed to cancer on Thursday at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.
He was 78.
A State-assisted funeral is an honour usually given to provincial heroes and heroines.
National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nacz) director Nicholas Moyo, who delivered the message on behalf of the government to the Manatsa family said the honour was in recognition of the great works of the late music legend.
“I am here to represent the government having talked to Tendai (Zexie’s son) informing us on the death of our music legend. I then contacted our Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry, deputy minister Tino Machakaire and permanent secretary Thokozile Chitepo informing them about this death.”
“We then wrote to the government about our situation and I am here to deliver the response from the government. Our government has seen it appropriate to accord a State-assisted funeral for our music legend.
“This State-assisted funeral is the third recognition bestowed by the government to a family of the deceased after national hero and liberation hero status. This does not mean you have to change your arrangements; it only means we have to be in touch in terms of your planning while you are on the forefront. Our government is happy to associate with the Manatsa family through conferring a State-assisted funeral for his immense works in the arts industry. President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) joins you in mourning, so as our ministers and National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.”
Manatsa family welcomes government gesture
The family welcomed the gesture and announced that the late singer would be buried on Sunday at Warren Hills Cemetery in the capital.
“On behalf of the Manatsa family, we appreciate the government’s gesture that has been bestowed to us. It comes as a result of how my uncle has worked in the showbiz industry,” said the family spokesperson, Richard Chafausipo.
“As a family, we appreciate and are so grateful for such a gesture. If our President remains the man he is such that this gesture is not bestowed to us only.”
Manatsa brief background
Famed for his hit songs such as Chipo Chiroorwa, the iconic musician was born on January 1, 1944.
Manatsa launched his musical career in 1959 in Mhangura, Zimbabwe, at the age of 17 with his young brothers.
He went on to form the Green Arrows Band in 1968 after relocating to Bulawayo, for which he provided lead vocals and played the bass guitar.
In 1969, he joined the Sunrise Kwela Kings, In 1972, the Green Arrows began writing their own songs to mass appeal.
South African saxophonist West Nkosi, who was also a consultant for Gallo Records, discovered the band and became its producer in the 70s and the resulting album Chipo Chiroorwa sold so well before the band moved to Harare. Their success continued in the 1970s and 80s as they continued to produce well-received tours and hit records.
In the 1970s and 80s Manatsa released many tracks which have proved to be all-time hits such as Chipo Chiroorwa, Bambo Mwakwatila, Vaparidzi Vawanda, Mwana Waenda, Chechule Anavala Bottom, and Chimwamuna Chamimba.
Inspiration to fellow musicians
At the peak of his career, Manatsa inspired many musicians of his era such as Chimurenga maestro Thomas Mapfumo, the late national hero Oliver Mtukudzi, James Chimombe, Leonard Dembo, and Simon Chimbetu.
Manatsa was married to Stella Manatsa (nee Katehwe) with whom they had a record-breaking wedding that attracted a 50 000 crowd at Rufaro Stadium in Harare in 1979.
Artsites, music promoters and stakeholders in the creative industry described the death of Manatsa as a void that would be hard to fill. Mourners are gathered at 3564 Westminster Sentosa, Mabelreign in Harare.