Tanzania: Farewell to a Film Star

Tanzania bid farewell to one of its most popular film stars, Steven Kanumba, with an emotionally-charged funeral on 11 April, 2012. He died early on Saturday morning, aged 28, after an altercation with his girlfriend Elizabeth ‘Lulu’ Michael.

That more than 30,000 people including Tanzania’s Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Tanzania’s First Lady Mama Salma Kikwete, other senior government officials, artists and people from all walks of life gathered to pay their last respects at the capital Dar Es Salaam's Leader’s Club, is a testimony to Kanumba's immense popularity at such an early age and to his contribution to Tanzania’s film industry (popularly known as Bongo Movies).

More than 30,000 people gathered to pay their last respects. Photo courtesy of @BongoCelebrity.

More than 30,000 people gathered to pay their last respects. Photo courtesy of @BongoCelebrity.

Some mourners took photos and tweeted live as people grieved, fainted [sw] and demanded to carry the coffin of the much-loved iconic actor to the cemetery.

@BongoCelebrity tweeted [sw]:

@BongoCelebrity: Wananchi wanaimba kwa nguvu wakisema wanataka wamshushe kwenye gari wambebe wenyewe!

@BongoCelebrity: People are chanting heartily saying they want to take him from the car and carry him themselves!

News of Kanumba’s death broke out on early Saturday morning via social media. Blogger Pretty Sintah wrote [sw]:

Dear Wadauzz
nasikitika kutangaza kifo cha Steven kanumba ambaye amefariki leo saa saba ya usiku,maiti ipo Muhimbili hospital.
chanzo cha kifo,inasemekana Lulu na Kanumba were dating secretly,na walikuwa pamoja wakati wa kifo chake,Lulu alimsukuma Kanumba wakiwa katika ugomvi na kanumba akadondoka na kutoa damu na ndipo mauti ilimshika
kwa sasa Lulu yupo Osterbay police.
nitawaletea more updates
ila tusimlaumu Lulu kwani ugomvi katika mapenzi unatokea.
uki comment naomba ujue nilikuwepo eneo la tukio kuanzia Home kupeleka maiti hosp na kurudi kwake Sinza,kwa ujumla sijalala,
ni hilo tuu

Dear people,
I am saddened to inform you of the death of Steven Kanumba who died at one o'clock in the morning, his body is at the Muhimbili hospital.
Cause of death, it is alleged that Lulu [his girlfriend] and Kanumba were dating secretly, and were together when he died, Lulu pushed Kanumba when they were arguing and Kanumba fell, bled and met his death.
Now Lulu is at Oysterbay police station.
I will bring you more updates
But let us not blame Lulu because sometimes arguments arise in a relationship
When you write a comment know that I was at the scene, from his home and when we took his body to the hospital and back to his house in Sinza. I have not slept.
That is all


Much has been written about the death of Steven Kanumba and the alleged role that his girlfriend Lulu played, but probably one comment on Pretty Sintah’s blog sums up [sw] the mood on social media regarding this tragedy:

It’s so painful to lose you our Hero and the only existed Steven Kanumba ‘the great’. Tanzanians gonna really miss you our best friend. Am sending my condolence to your lovely mom, your young bro, your family members, our bongo movie friends and the entire TZ community.
Its not good to judge anyone on this issue, only God can judge a person, Imagine if you are the one judged by everyone as what is happening to lulu now!! I am very sure that Lulu was not intending to do any bad thing to Kanumba, and am also sure that Lulu was not involved in this matter in any way, may be there was something else concerning Kanumba's health, but let us wait for the Doctors and Lawyers to play their part.
R.I.P our beloved Kanumba. It’s a high time for our guys like Vincent Kigosi and others to go on with this good thing Kanumba started; we still have good actors and actresses who can take us to the next level. I really believe in you Ray.

Wavuti has a curated commentary from social media [sw] including Kanumba’s [sw] last tweets as well as tweets by his fans after his death.

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