Theatre Guru Walter Muparutsa dies

His family confirmed the death to Radio VOP early on Friday morning. Mourners are gathered at his Belvedere home in Harare.

Mparutsa (72) died from complications during a blood transfusion process. He was suffering from a cancer ailment.

The Culture Fund, which was working with the iconic actor and producer, also confirmed his death, saying: “Walter Muparutsa has passed away. …we can remember Walter in our thoughts and prayers and the great work he was doing for theatre in Zimbabwe.”

Actress Rutendo Chigudu was fast to take to Face Book posting on the Culture Fund wall that: “I’ve received confirmation that it is indeed the sad and heartbreaking truth.”

Early this year in an interview with local press, Muparutsa revealed that he had fought and won against non-Hodgkins cancer. He faced the same battle in 2008 and had to undergo chemotherapy at the same time as the late Tongai Moyo.

He said then: “I was being treated at the same hospital with the late Tongai and doctors would even refer to both our circumstances. However, I do not know what was happening because I meant to talk to him about our similar condition but we missed each other until he died. I needed to understand his beliefs and mindset as someone who experienced the same thing. There are certain requirements from the doctors that as a cancer patient you are expected to fulfil and one of them is enough time to rest. At one time the doctors complained that Moyo was not heeding their advice and in my case they had to call my wife to ensure I did not overwork despite my busy schedule. So I had to be controlled.”

The theatre guru at one time produced a play that depicted him as a cancer patient and ironically it is the same disease which has led to his death.

Muparutsa had a colourful career acting in feature films Yellow Card in 2000, Everyone’s Child (1996), Peak Practice, Cry Freedom (1987) and Play Warriors in 2011.

He belonged to a special group of Zimbabwean artists better known as protest artists. He was a great believer in freedom of expression, human rights and democracy. He vigorously fought censorship and during a workshop to review the country’s cultural policy last year, he told officials from the Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture that the government had no business in interfering with the work of artists.

In 2003 he was part of a group of artists who took government to court for banning an explosive theatre play, Super Patriots and Morons. The play was a sad reflection of the state of the country’s human rights, lawlessness, and murder of opposition parties’ activists, economic meltdown, unemployment, starvation, corruption and endless shortages of virtually all basic necessities.

At the time of his death he was running his Global Arts Theatre Association and was Chairperson of Artists for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust (ADZT), an organisation which brings together artists with interests in fighting democracy in Zimbabwe. Muparutsa had wanted to focus on women through Global Arts Trust and Complete Arts Project.

“We have plays like Diary of a Wretched Person, Year of a Woman, Conversation Between Me, Myself and I, Miss Julie, which speak on women. This idea came about because we have heard various organisations and institutions being vocal about women empowerment but practically nothing is being done. So through theatre we want to highlight a woman’s position,” he had promised.