Most people who showed up yesterday to pay their last respects to Tanzanian movie superstar Steven Charles Kanumba, failed in their mission after the ceremony was cut short due to unprecedented turnout of mourners.
Some, desperate to get a last glance at him, said they had arrived at the funeral grounds as early as 5am and by 8am over 2,000 seats were occupied.
According to reports, the number of mourners had by 11am swelled to over 40,000, most wailing inconsolably, with some fainting, leading to the organisers and police to skip the planned last respects and bury the star at 2.00pm instead of the planned 4pm.
Police had to keep out the huge crowd seeking to enter the Kinondoni cemetery to witness the burial ceremony.
The coffin bearing the body of late Kanumba was brought to the funeral grounds at around 10am by his Bongo Movies colleagues to a chorus of wailing mourners all over the ground.
Some of the mourners fainted when the casket was taken off the vehicle and placed before them ready for the funeral service.
According to the timetable, mourners would have paid their last respects to their beloved premier movie star for the whole day, but following the chaos only the Vice President Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, ministers, top government officials and political leaders performed the ritual.
Soon after the leaders had left the grounds, organisers announced that mourners could not pay last respects to Kanumba’s body and should instead proceed to Kinondoni cemetery for the burial ceremony.
The announcement prompted mourners to struggle to at least touch the coffin as it was being taken back into the funeral vehicle.
Even Kanumba’s family members including his mother were allowed to take a last glimpse of his face at the graveyard.
His fellow artists, some of whom had traveled from as far as Nigeria, DRC and Kenya and others from within the country could not pay their last respects to the late Kanumba.
The AICC Christian choir of Chang’ombe one of whose members was the late Kanumba, consoled the mourners with gospel songs.
The leader of the medical team, Dr Nassoro Matuzya from Mwananyamala hospital said they attended to over 600 mourners who suffered various complications including Blood Pressure (BP) and epilepsy.
He refuted claims circulated earlier that some mourners had died at the grounds. He said nurses and doctors from Red Cross and other government hospitals ensured that those who suffered complications were promptly attended to.
In an interview with The Guardian some mourners blamed both the burial committee and security organs for poor arrangements that resulted in the chaos, denying people the opportunity to bid farewell to the great actor.
A mourner from Morogoro region, Josephat John said restricting them from seeing the deceased body was to deny mourners the right to show their love for him.
“I traveled all the way from Morogoro because I wanted to bid farewell to him and satisfy myself that what I have heard in the media was true,” he noted.
Kinondoni legislator, Idd Azzan admitted the weakness, saying the burial committee wasn’t aware that such a big number of people would turn out for the funeral ceremony.
According to Azzan, the event should have taken two days as the deceased had a lot of fans within and outside the country. He said they decided to bar them from paying last respects due to security reasons, fearing another tragedy.
Minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi said the government is now preparing a strategy to protect the rights of artists. He said the Bill will be tabled in the Parliament in July this year. He said the government in collaboration with the artists was working in a programme to improve the film and music industry, of which Kanumba was part.
“Artists are working in difficult conditions, but the late Kanumba struggled all the way to achieve success”, he said.
Dr Nchimbi said the government has extended 10m/- in condolence to the deceased family. He called on artists to unite and bury their differences.
Preaching during the burial ceremony, Rev Charles Salala from the African Inland Church called on people to do things that will be remembered after their deaths.
“You should live in a manner that would continue to stay in people’s minds even after your deaths. The late Kanumba has done many things at his young age…he would have done a lot if still alive”, he noted.
Kanumba died on Saturday from a cause still under investigation by medical doctors.
On the material day, the 28-year old was reportedly with 18-year-old Elizabeth Michael, alias Lulu, who is being interrogated at Kinondoni regional police headquarters at Oysterbay in Dar es Salaam.