Latest on Mai Rwizi’s funeral: Mourners are still gathered in Mbare, no burial arrangements planned yet


A wave of grief has washed over Zimbabwe as the nation prepares to say goodbye to Susan “Mai Rwizi” Chenjerai, a legendary actress and musician whose life and work touched the hearts of generations. Mai Rwizi, who passed away last Friday after a short illness, will be laid to rest this week, leaving behind a legacy of laughter, entertainment, and a deep connection to the Zimbabwean spirit.

The 83-year-old actress, best known for her iconic role as Mai Rwizi in the popular drama series “Mhuri Yekwa Mukadota,” brought joy and realism to countless homes across the country. Her portrayal of the strong, resilient, and often humorous matriarch resonated deeply with audiences, cementing her place as a beloved figure in Zimbabwean entertainment.

“She lit up the ZTV screen as Mai Rwizi,” said a family spokesperson, confirming that the burial arrangements are still being finalized as they await the arrival of relatives from the diaspora. “It may be Thursday, but we can’t promise you that.”

Mourners have gathered at Number 1 Beatrice Cottages in Mbare, the heart of Harare, to pay their respects to the beloved actress. Her niece, Prisca Shonhiwa, described Mai Rwizi as a loving and caring person, a testament to the warmth and generosity that she exuded both on and off the screen.

“She was my best friend and I will always miss her,” said Shonhiwa. “Gogo was a nice person.”

Tributes have poured in from across the country, reflecting the profound impact that Mai Rwizi had on the Zimbabwean creative landscape. Napoleon Nyanhi, director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, described her death as a blow to the sector.

“Her immense contribution to the arts sector can never be ignored,” Nyanhi said. “In 2021, she was honoured by the National Arts Merit Awards as one of the 40 legends who made a mark on the arts and culture landscape in the first 40 years of Zimbabwe’s independence.”

Nyanhi, who chronicled Mai Rwizi’s journey, highlighted her versatility as an actress, extending her talents beyond the television screen to work with renowned musicians like the late Dr Oliver Mtukudzi and Jordan Chataika.

“She also worked with musicians like the late Dr Oliver Mtukudzi and Jordan Chataika during her career,” Nyanhi said. “We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family. The new generation of actors will bear the torch and run with it. The legacy you ignited will forever shine.”

Dub poet Albert Nyathi, who last met Mai Rwizi at the NAMA Legends ceremony in 2020, remembered her as a woman who brought joy to audiences even when they couldn’t understand the language.

“I used to watch her on television at Mpopoma Hall with others. I could not speak a single Shona word but I still fell in love with her,” Nyathi said. “She played her role effortlessly, which made her a darling of many.”

Raisedon Baya, a Bulawayo-bred playwright, columnist, and artist, described Mai Rwizi as a fountain of knowledge in the creative sector.

“Susan Chenjerai was in a class of her own,” Baya said. “If the arts in this country properly paid she would have been a proper celebrity till her death. In the drama ‘(Mhuri Yekwa) Mukadota’ she was a natural talent. Rest in peace legend.”

Mai Rwizi’s journey began in 1951 as a member of the Bantu Actors, a group of Mbare-based actors. Her talent was evident from a young age, leading her to join the Marandellas Bush Babies in the late 1950s, where she made a significant impact.

She rubbed shoulders with some of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated musicians, including Mtukudzi, Chataika, and US-based Chimurenga musician Thomas Mapfumo. In 1969, she joined Safirio Madzikatire’s Safe Brothers Band, performing iconic songs like “KwaHunyani” alongside Elizabeth Taderera, known as Katarina.

Mai Rwizi’s dedication to her craft was unwavering, but she ultimately chose to step away from acting in 1984 after finding her faith. A pastor at New Gospel of God, she dedicated her life to spreading the word of God and saving lost souls.

Mai Rwizi’s legacy extends beyond her talent as an actress and musician. She was a mentor and role model for countless aspiring artists, representing female artists with pride and inspiring generations to embrace their creative passions. Her passing marks a significant loss for Zimbabwean arts and culture, but her spirit and her work will continue to resonate for years to come.

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