By Songa wa Songa
The Citizen Reporter
Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s premier film star, Steven Kanumba, died of a brain injury caused by a sudden blow to the head. One of the doctors who examined Kanumba’s body at Muhimbili National Hospital hinted that the actor died on the spot after suffering such severe brain damage that he collapsed and stopped breathing.
Kanumba died on Saturday in his room in a dramatic turn of events that many of his fans have yet to come to terms with.
On the night he died, the 28-year-old actor was reportedly with 18-year-old Elizabeth Michael, popularly known as Lulu, who is being interrogated at Kinondoni regional police headquarters at Oysterbay in Dar es Salaam.
Kanumba’s sudden death has sent shockwaves across the country, East Africa and West Africa, particularly Ghana and Nigeria, where he had achieved prominence in the continent’s leading film industry, Nollywood. He had returned home from a trip to Ghana just a few days before his death.
News of his death started spreading in the wee hours through mobile phone text messaging and went abuzz on social networks and electronic media. His Sinza home was full of mourners of all ages and walks of life by 7am.
President Jakaya Kikwete joined mourners on Sunday, calling the fallen star a brilliant ambassador who sold Tanzania far and wide through the screen.
The President said he had received the news of Kanumba’s death with “shock and sadness” and promised to honour the promises he made to the delegation from Tanzania’s film industry that visited him recently at State House. Kanumba was in the delegation.
During interviews with Kanumba’s close friends and fellow actors, The Citizen learnt that “The Great”, as he was popularly known, died only a heartbeat away from achieving his dream of working in Hollywood.
The actor was also reportedly longing to start a family, so much so that, in his last days, he had taken to befriending children and making movies featuring and targeting young audiences.
Kanumba’s mother, Ms Flora Mutegoa, who was in Kagera region when the news of her son’s death hit the airwaves, arrived in Dar es Salaam on Sunday and his father, Mr Charles Kanumba, was expected last evening.
His mother told reporters that her son called her a few hours before his death and asked her to come over for an important chat and farewell as he was to travel to the US, where he had won an opportunity to take part in a film.
Kanumba’s mother, who doubled up as a close friend and confidant of the artiste, said she was devastated by the news. “This is one of the worst moments in my life,” she said.
Steven Kanumba died in his prime. He was on top of his game in Tanzania’s local film industry, Tollywood, had already made his presence felt in Nollywood and was heading to Hollywood.
In an ironical turn of events, though, one of Tanzania’s most promising artistes will be laid to rest today at Kinondoni cemetery in Dar es Salaam—a decision reached collectively by his family and friends and movie industry stakeholders in honour of his huge talent and following beyond the country’s borders.
Fans can pay their last respects starting at 9am at Leaders’ club in Kinondoni but the funeral service proper begins at 10am. The burial is scheduled for 4pm.
By Songa wa Songa