Bongani Ndlovu, columnist
THE memorial service for the late Dean of Arts Cont Mhlanga will take place tomorrow at the Bulawayo Amphitheater before his burial in Lupane on Saturday.
There will be a walk through Bulawayo in his honor tomorrow.
Initially, the Mhlanga Memorial Service was designed for Amakhosi Township Square but was moved to a larger venue, the Amphitheater, according to the Executive Director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ), Mr. Nicholas Moyo.
Mhlanga (64) died Monday morning at United Hospitals Bulawayo (UBH) after being admitted for 10 days.
His family said he succumbed to pneumonia.
The playwright established the Amakhosi Theater in 1981, where several performers who passed through his hands became household names in Zimbabwe.
The legend has written over 20 plays including The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bomb. He also adapted the popular play Stitsha into a TV series starring the late Beatar Mangethe.
He directed Bamqgibela Ephila and Omunye Umngcwabo.
Mhlanga also produced Amakorokoza and Sinjalo for ZBC. He was the founding Vice President of Fairtalk Communications, the parent company of Skyz Metro FM, Breeze FM and KeYona TV.
After retiring from the arts in 2016, Mhlanga moved from Bulawayo to his rural home in Lupane, where he raised livestock like goats.
In a statement, Mr Moyo said that due to public interest, Mhlanga’s family decided to move the memorial from Amakhosi Township Square.
“Aware of the public interest generated by this funeral, the family has decided to move the memorial service to a larger location.
However, a family service will be held at Amakhosi Township Square on Friday morning,” Mr. Moyo said.
“To celebrate the life of the legendary Cont Mhlanga, a farewell memorial service will be held at the Bulawayo Amphitheater on Friday August 5th at 9am.
The memorial service will be held to celebrate his life and honor the contributions he made in the arts and culture sector and in Zimbabwe and beyond.
A walk through the town will be carried out before the funeral procession travels to Lupane for the interment, which will take place on Saturday morning.
Mr Moyo said preparations to take Mhlanga to his final resting place are going smoothly, led by an organizing team made up of family members, artists, the Bulawayo city council and the government.
He said the team is grateful to the Bulawayo community for the goodwill offered for various services to be provided to grant Mhlanga a funeral worthy of his status and legacy.
Mr Moyo said the family thanked President Mnangagwa for granting Mhlanga a state-assisted funeral as it resolved some of the major service costs associated with a funeral of this magnitude.
“The family would like to thank those who have supported them during this very difficult time and are eternally grateful for all the support and presence from around the world.
We look forward to celebrating the life that we will miss dearly.
“Zimbabwe has lost a great son and a national asset, the creative and cultural industry has been left poorer by the departure of such an illustrious creator,” Mr Moyo said.
On Tuesday, President Mnangagwa mourned Mhlanga saying the country had lost an internationally renowned playwright, filmmaker and creative director who was a pioneer in the country’s creative and cultural industries.
He granted Mhlanga a state-assisted funeral and $2.5 million to help with the funeral.
Born Mdladla Mhlanga on March 16, 1958 in Lupane, Mhlanga is survived by six children and one grandchild.
Her father was Dickson Mbikwa and her mother was Sarah Danile who was born in Fatima Mission.
He learned in primary schools in Shabula and Fatima. For his secondary education, he attended Fatima High School for grades 1 and 2. He did grades 3 and 4 at Sobukazi High School in Bulawayo. – @bonganinkunzi