President Emmerson Mnangagwa has granted a State-assisted funeral to the late National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) legend and creative director Cont Mdladla Mhlanga.

Mhlanga whose career in the cultural and creative industries began in 1982 when he formed Amakhosi which started as a youth karate club before he switched to professional theatre in 1988, died on Monday morning after being admitted at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) for 10 days.

In a statement on Tuesday, Chief Secretary in the President’s Office and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda said the President recommended the State to fund Mhlanga’s funeral.

“His Excellency the President, Dr E.D. Mnangagwa, has granted State-assisted Funeral to the late National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) legend, Continue-loving ‘Cont’ Mdlala Mhlanga, who passed on yesterday at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) after a short illness,” Sibanda said.

“This is in recognition of his great achievements as an internationally acclaimed playwright, filmmaker and creative director who came as a trail blazer in our country’s creative and cultural industries.

“Only recently the late departed had been appointed as a member of the National Team for the Creation of a Strategy for the Zimbabwe Film Sector.

“On behalf of the Office of the President and Cabinet, and indeed on my behalf, I wish foremost, to express my deepest condolences to the Mhlanga family who have lost a beloved father and breadwinner, and to the cultural and creative arts community in general, who are the poorer with the demise of one of Zimbabwe’s most respected icons the arts sector has ever produced.”

Cont Mdladla Mhlanga wrote more than 20 plays among them The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bombs, The Members and Vikela. He has three books to his name.

He is the one who adapted the popular play Stitsha to a TV series before it featured the late Beatar Mangethe. He has directed Bamqgibela Ephila and Omunye Umngcwabo.

Mhlanga was arrested and briefly detained in May 2006 on the grounds that his plays were inciting an uprising against the regime of the late President Robert Mugabe who was removed from power by the current Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa.