TODAY marks exactly three years to the day legendary music icon and national hero Dr Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi breathed his last. The revered and highly decorated musician died at the age of 66, and had the same number of albums under his belt. Many knew him as a gifted international music star, whose compositions were both soulful and poignant. However, a lot of things that happened off-stage such as his supposed “secret” love affairs were usually the staple of the country’s rumour mill. Always the conservative type, Tuku was careful, rather too obsessive, about the information of his personal life that was fed to the public. For instance, he never responded to reports that he sired children out of wedlock. Raising the issue during interviews often meant a premature end to the engagement. Last week, Sunday MailSociety Reporter VERONICA GWAZE (VG) sat down with the late popular musician’s widow Daisy Mtukudzi (DM) at Pakare Paye Arts Centre for an insight into a wide range of issues.
VG: Can you take us through your memories of Dr Tuku’s last moments?
DM: Our last days were as if he knew he was going. However, it was apparent that Sam’s (Mtukudzi) death continued to affect him years after, even on his deathbed. But, it is events of his last day in hospital that keep playing in my mind. The hospital staff called asking me to come, because he kept calling my name all day. I swiftly responded and went there. Upon arrival, the first thing he said was ‘‘Dee, take my ring with you’.’ We used to call each other Dee, which for others is short for Daisy and Dairai, but, to us, it was for darling.
He asked the nurse who had put the ring in storage to give it to me. I took it and told him I was putting it on. Since then, I have never removed it; it makes me feel close to him. His last words were ‘‘Dee, I love you!’’ and just after that, the machines started buzzing as he breathed his last.
VG: How is life without him and what do you miss most?
DM: What I miss most about Samanyanga is the soulmate that he was. Barely an hour would pass by without us communicating, even if he was away. I miss those calls; we always checked up on each other often. I feel lonely. I have no one to discuss issues with.
We discussed before making any decision, regardless of how small it was. Sometimes I get carried away, looking at my phone hoping that he is going to call. It is tough to find anyone to fill the gap he left in my life. Life has been empty without him; a part of me is gone. I am still grieving.
VG: We understand he left behind some unfinished work. What are your plans for the project?
DM: Sadly, the notepad that contained the project he was working on was stolen. Someone broke into the office where we kept it, thus there no longer is any pending project to talk about. However, he was also working on something with Mbeu (Ashton Nyahora) and it will be released soon. We are also planning to establish a Dr Tuku museum, where his regalia, equipment, etcetera, will be displayed.
VG: What are your sentiments about allegations that he neglected a part of his family?
DM: Tuku was a family man. He always made time for his family despite his busy schedule. Also, he made sure his children were provided for. All his children were in boarding schools. Sometimes we would go for visits together, but oftentimes Tuku would go alone as I had a demanding office. However, during school holidays we made sure that the maid took a break as we wanted our kids to learn to do general chores.
I understood that Tuku had other kids besides mine, and my hands were open to all. I loved them equally; likewise, now as a mother, and my door is open to all of them. I do not understand where issues of neglect emanated from. Up to now, I do not have a problem with any one of the children. They are all free to approach me. We were partners (with Tuku) in everything. We discussed all our moves, budgeted towards our projects and always stuck to the plan.
VG: How did you relate in private?
DM: As a couple, we grew to become best friends and we were together most of the time. Tuku wanted us to spend as much time as we could together, which is why we sometimes travelled together. When the trips were long, I would let them travel then join them later. We barely had conflicts because we had learnt to respect each other in our respective work spaces. I understood the nature of his job.
Sometimes female fans would even throw themselves at him, a lot would also be written about him, but because we were best friends, I understood him beyond that. At home, we would talk about some of the incidents and laugh it off. Tuku taught me to act as if nothing happened around us and that lesson brought us far. On special occasions like Valentines’ (Day) or on my birthday, he always made sure to spoil me. I always got a card and a bunch of flowers. I have more than 37 cards (birthday) in my archive. He also took me to countless lunch and dinner dates. I also discovered after his death (2019) that he had set in motion plans to take me to Kariba for a houseboat treat for my 60th birthday.
VG: Can you share with us some of the things he did at home?
DM: Tuku valued spending time at home such that even after his out-of-town shows, he would drive back home. I was against it. I knew he would be tired, but after returning he would say; ‘‘I had missed home and your cooking, Dee’’. He loved watching movies and never mixed his private life with business.
Probably that is why he would avoid answering calls when he was home. Sometimes we would watch soccer, making a lot of noise and laughing. He also had some ‘‘special’’ home decorating skills and often corrected me. Spending time in the garden was also one of his hobbies or playing with his grandchildren whenever they were around.
VG: When and how did you meet Dr Mtukudzi?
DM: It was back in 1980, in Kwekwe. He was friends with my late uncle Samuel Matiza. At that time, I was staying with my uncle, so one day they came to my workplace, although I did not recognise him even after introducing himself. Since then, he would frequent my workplace and months later, he made his intentions known both to me and my uncle. However, being a village girl, it took me almost a year to agree to date him.
He would call me daily on our landline. One day in 1981, Oliver’s then manager, Jack Sadza, called, asking me to travel to Harare and meet the Mtukudzi family, but I refused, which prompted Oliver to then call my uncle and plead with him for permission. The following day we met in Harare only to discover that Oliver had in fact planned to take me to Malawi, where he had a gig.
I was reluctant at first, but he was a charmer; he had his way around me. However, landing in Lilongwe, Malawi, one of my worst fears was confirmed — we met my uncle’s neighbour who worked at the airport, and when he saw me, he asked why I was in Malawi with some unknown men. It was Oliver, Sadza, another man and myself.
Despite giving him several explanations and trying to silence him, he went on to inform my uncle. What was supposed to be our first trip together and be fun turned out to be horror. I was now stressed and yearned to go back home. I had my own room and I recall the sleepless nights as fear of what would happen if they got the news at home wiped away all the excitement.
Just as Oliver had promised my uncle, in two days, we were back in Harare before driving me straight home, where, upon arrival, I could tell something was wrong. My father had just come from our rural home. Without much negotiation, together with Oliver we were asked to go back from wherever we had come from.
Without any change of clothes, we left for Harare and that was the beginning of my life with Oliver.
Later that year, he paid dowry and in 1982 we had our firstborn. Considering the time I got married and the time Selmor was to be born, 1983, it is clear there was some mischief, but I decided not to be harsh or hold grudges over the issue.
VG: Are you still pursuing music?
DM: I am neither a good vocalist nor a good dancer like Tuku was. It is actually him who kept talking me into singing.
VG: Any words of comfort to the Manatsa family following the demise of veteran musician Zexie Manatsa?
DM: Losing Baba Manatsa comes as a great shock and loss to the family and the nation at large. He (Manatsa) and Tuku came a long way, with the bond later being cemented by our kids. It’s a huge blow to all of us. May the family be consoled by God. Sunday Mail