A huge crowd yesterday afternoon thronged Glen Forest Memorial Park in Harare to bid farewell to one of the country's theatre and film gurus Walter Muparutsa. Muparutsa (71) died at the Avenues Clinic in Harare last Thursday. His burial took
place on the same day and same cemetery at which the late Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Senator Tichaona Mudzingwa was also buried.
Muparutsa's hearse had to wait outside the cemetery to give way to the convoy of vehicles carrying mourners gathered to witness Mudzingwa's burial.
It was close to an hour that Muparutsa's body finally reached its final resting place.
Family members, friends, relatives, top Government officials, members of the United Methodist Church, which Muparutsa was a member, politicians and fellow artistes gathered to pay their last respects to the iconic actor.
Muparutsa was famous for his stage and television roles in plays, dramas and films.
His widow Sarah, clad in her church uniform, was at a loss of words as she sat by the graveside while Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda sat next to the family while consoling them.
It was an emotional moment when the brown casket was carried to the gravesite.
His seven children and close relatives each threw a flower into his grave as a symbol of their undying love for the actor who unified people of all walks of life even in his last moment on earth.
Speakers described the late actor as a man of the people who was God-fearing.
One of the most moving graveside speeches was given by music legend Oliver Mtukudzi who described Muparutsa as a shining example of a successful and professional artiste.
"I knew him just as Walter, not Walter Muparutsa, because he regarded me as his age mate and friend despite the fact that I was younger than him.
"I learnt a lot from his experience in the arts industry because he took himself seriously.
"I have also just heard from the last speaker saying that he was God-fearing, and looking back, I see what that means because he also strove to bring a smile on many people's lips since he himself was ever-smiling and would always crack jokes.
"The biggest problem that our industry faces is that of attitude because most people regard artistes as good for nothing, but I would always point at Walter as a shining example of an artiste who had made it in the arts industry.
"He dignified the profession by being an artiste who managed to look after his family well from the arts, he was indeed a family man," he said.
Tuku lamented how the industry had lost a legend, before breaking into an emotive impromptu graveyard song:
"Haasi masanga kuungana kwataita . . . vakagara zvakarongwa naNyadenga (it is not by coincidence to be gathered here today . . . It is God's will)."
Theatre practitioner and close associate, Peter Churu who worked with Muparutsa until the time of his death, said he could not believe that his colleague was indeed gone.
He chronicled how Muparutsa was committed to uplifting acting in Zimbabwe as evidenced by the number of festivals the two were involved in.
"He was a fellow artiste. In fact, we joined our two companies, Complete Arts Project and his Global Arts Trust after realising that if we combined forces we could achieve more.
"Together, we did consultancy for a number of festivals like Chimanimani Arts Festival and Dzimbahwe Arts Festival and at the time of his death we were in the process of working with other festivals.
"He was my mentor, friend, father and an inspiration in the arts," Churu said.
Actor Timothy Tapfumaneyi also urged other artistes to emulate Muparutsa's professionalism.
"I admired him for his discipline, focus and organisation.
"He managed to prove many critics wrong by taking acting as a profession like any other job and looked after his family well," he said.
Mourners who spoke highly of Muparutsa and attended his burial included Professor Lovemore Madhuku, Secretary for Higher and Tertiary Education Dr Washington Mbizvo, novelists Tsitsi Dangarembga and Aaron Chiundura-Moyo and Zimpapers chief operating officer Mr Pikirayi Deketeke.
The music side had the likes of Bob Nyabinde, Freddy "Kapfupi" Manjalima, Sam Mataure and Mathias Bangure, among others while theatre director and actor Blessing Hungwe also took time to bid farewell to his master in the arts.