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Legend Cont Mhlanga national hero status snub sparks Parly debate; MP says Matebeleland folk livid

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By Staff Reporter

GOVERNMENT’s failure to bestow national hero status on late arts icon Continue-loving (Cont) Mhlanga was Thursday questioned in Parliament, with legislator Sipho Mokone claiming the snub had angered the generality of Matebeleland region.

The lawmaker said some people within the two provinces were demanding that government reviews its ‘state assisted funeral’ decision and accord legendary Mhlanga national recognition.

The award-winning playwright died on August 1, 2022 aged 64 after over four decades in the entertainment industry.

He built, from ground up, Amakhosi Theatre in Bulawayo, the culture hub where latent talent was nurtured and
produced most of the city’s recognised arts gems.

“Two weeks ago, we lost an icon in the arts and media industry, Cont Mhlanga. He was just not a mere Zimbabwean, he played a key role…from 1982 when he founded Amakhosi Theatre,” said Mokone.

“He groomed a number of artists that we are seeing to this day. He was a shareholder at SykzMetro and Keyona TV, but to the surprise of many people in Matabeleland, Mhlanga was not accorded any hero status.

“If I can juxtapose with the likes of Simon Chimbetu, Oliver Mtukudzi, Soul Jah Love, surely the work that Mhlanga did for this country cannot be swept under the carpet.

“The people of Matabeleland are very disappointed; they deserve answers to this. They feel that the state assisted funeral he was given was not enough. My prayer now is that government reconsiders its decision as regards the hero status of Mhlanga.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa granted him a state assisted funeral, a day after his death despite calls by sections within the industry to have Mhlanga honoured in similar fashion as his comrades.

“This is in recognition of his great achievements as an internationally acclaimed playwright, filmmaker and creative director who came as a trail blazer in our country’s creative and cultural industries,” read Mnangagwa’s
statement.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Tsitsi Gezi said provinces should have recommended Mhlanga’s hero status, before promising a minestrial statement on the matter.

Mhlanga’s Amakhosi produced Amakorokoza, a then very popular soapie in the mid-2000s.

His production house also dug up talent such as Prince Zulu, Sarah Mpofu, Zenzo Nyathi and late stand-up comedian Clive Chigubhu.