Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Cont Mhlanga against ‘tribal’ doctorate

By Bruce Ndlovu

While there has been a renewed push by fans to see him rewarded with an honorary doctorate for his contributions to the arts, Amakhosi founder Cont Mhlanga has spoken out against some that claim to be in his corner, saying they sought to further tribal agendas using his name.

Cont Mhlanga
Cont Mhlanga

The celebration of the life and work of Oliver Mtukudzi after his death has prompted some to question why the veteran arts doyen cannot be given his flowers while he can smell them, as they feel people should not wait for the death of prominent figures before giving them due credit.

The social media flutter in the last few weeks saw many prominent figures join the choir of those calling for Mhlanga to be honoured, with comedian Edgar Langeveldt, radio personality Lenox Mhlanga and politician Fortune Molokele among those who felt that a doctorate for the Amakhosi founder was long overdue.

Related Articles
1 of 89

In an interview, Mhlanga told Sunday Life that he felt that his name was being used by some calling for the honour to push a narrow tribal agenda.

“So basically I feel like my name shouldn’t be used to push any campaign that has a tribal slant to it. In the end all I can say is that I’m aware of the campaign. I’ve seen the young people pushing for me to be recognised for my work but I don’t agree with it in principle. If there’s a tribal element to it then whenever I receive that honour I would likely embarrass those that called for it. People know how I am,” he said.

Mhlanga revealed that he had heard about the campaign to get him honoured, as he caught wind of it last year when he was approached by a group of young arts practitioners in Bulawayo to help with efforts to push for what they felt was a well-deserved honour.

“At some time last year, one of the foremost young writers, Chris Mlalazi, emailed me and put forward the idea of pushing for an honorary doctorate. When we spoke he said that to help push that agenda, I should write a biography of myself stating all that I had done in my career,” he said.

Despite advances from the group, Mhlanga said the plans had died a quick death because some of their requests had not been flattering. According to Mhlanga, one of the group’s requests was that he writes a biography of himself, something that he strongly disagreed with.

“The issue ended up dying before it took off because I personally disagreed with this group of young writers on two points. I told them that I couldn’t sit down and write a biography of myself. That would be hard for me to do. If you’re being honoured with something like a doctorate then it means that your work is widely known. If you’ve truly excelled in your career then you don’t need to remind people of what you’ve done through a biography.

“I also told them that if they, as the people who are pushing for this doctorate, couldn’t write a biography or summary of what I had done then it was also a problem. If they can’t write in their own words what Cont Mhlanga means to them then I probably don’t deserve that honour. I still stand by those sentiments today,” he said.

Mhlanga said he also felt that the honour was opportunistic, as those calling for it seemed to pit him against the late Oliver Mtukudzi, who had received a similar honour. Mhlanga said if he was to be honoured, he wanted it to be done in a way that rewarded him for his own work, not as a way to counter the recognition of a fellow artiste.

“Another objection that I had about the honorary degree campaign was that despite the fact it might have come from a good place, it felt as if it was being done because of the fact that Dr Oliver Mtukudzi had been given the same honour. I don’t want to be recognised because so and so was recognised.

“I say that because Cont can’t accuse people who honoured Oliver Mtukudzi of not doing the same for him because when they gave him that honour it was under a different context. Our situations are different and when he was given that honour it came about because people felt compelled to do so, not because they were motivated by an honour that had been given to someone else,” he said.

Mhlanga said despite the push to give him further recognition, he felt that he had been sufficiently recognised throughout his illustrious career.

“Have I been recognised enough in my life? No one in their right mind would say I haven’t been honoured enough. Very kind of recognition that I get is a blessing and I’m grateful for all that I have received,” he said. Sunday News.