HARARE – Music legend Oliver Mtukudzi was denied an honorary degree by the University of Zimbabwe because his hit song Wasakara was deemed to be anti-President Robert Mugabe, a leading academic has claimed.
Wasakara, off the commercially successful Bvuma/Tolerance album released in 2000, was replete with deep-meaning lyrics which implored an old man to accept that age had caught up with him — leading to most Zimbabweans to conclude the superstar meant Mugabe.
“Chief executive officer of Chitungwiza General Hospital, Obadiah Moyo, proposed the idea of honouring Mtukudzi with a University of Zimbabwe doctorate degree owing to his unquestionable contribution to the arts sector,” said academic and music expert, Fred Zindi, while addressing musicians and corporate leaders on Friday at Mtukudzi’s Pakare Paye Arts centre in Norton, where the lanky musician was launching his new album.
“By then, I was in the University of Zimbabwe Council and I presented the issue to the university council and at first the deal was promising but later questions about the meaning of the song Bvuma started to pop up and that was when the deal went wrong.
“The (UZ) council then promised to furnish us with a reply after consulting the university chancellor and up to now they are dilly-dallying with the issue and we are waiting for a reply.”
So popular was Wasakara that in 2001, it landed an engineer — Steven Schadendorff in trouble during a live show at the Harare International Conference Centre — when he shone a beam on the portrait of Mugabe during Tuku’s performance of the song which forced the crowd to sing along.
As the crowd sang along ‘‘Bvuma, Bvuma Chete, Bvuma Wasakara, Bvuma Waunyana (Accept, accept that you are on the wane, accept you now have wrinkles on your skin)’’, Schadendorff continuously shone the beam on the long-serving Zimbabwe leader’s portrait.
Schadendorff who became known as the “Wasakara engineer’ during his trial was spared prison.
Mtukudzi, however, despite missing out on the UZ degree, would go on to be recognised by the Great Zimbabwe University which conferred him with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Ethno-Musicology and Choreography in 2014.
Mtukudzi, who claims he is apolitical, has mastered the art of producing and singing music with deep meaning which he says must be left to his fans to deduce its meaning.
In contrast, outspoken Chimurenga music icon, Thomas Mapfumo who was blasted over the weekend by President Robert Mugabe for his role in last week’s protests in New York, has never hidden his deep-seated dislike of the Zanu PF leader.
Mukanya, as Mapfumo is known in music circles, has often attacked Mugabe’s governance style in hard-hitting songs such as Corruption, Disaster, Mamvemve, Vaurayiwa, Huni, Marima Nzara and Havasevenzi Vapfana among others from an impressive discography.
Mapfumo now resides in Oregon in the United States after relocating in 2002 amid claims he had been targeted by Mugabe’s government in a luxury vehicle probe.
Most of his stinging songs are banned from the State radio stations although he remains a hugely popular figure among Zimbabweans who are enamoured with his music.