HARARE - In a country divided by the widening gap between those who have and those who don’t, it is not every day that a celebrity like music superstar Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi enrols his son at a school of Chindunduma 1 High School’s calibre.
In 2005, out of the blue, Tuku brought his now late son, Sam, who had until then studied at the prestigious Prince Edward School, to the deep end of Shamva to join us at Chindunduma.
Naturally, the development took us by surprise. What could a superstar’s son possibly want at St Nyoka (a name routinely used to ridicule not-so -affluent schools.)?
Sam was among us, attending class with us. He was even sharing the same dining halls with us!
Unsurprisingly, we were star struck. I was a mere Lower Sixth student then with no exposure to celebrities. We found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that Sam was now one of us. He wore the same Khaki shorts, white shirts, blue and white stripped ties as the other ‘O’ Level Boys.
Everyone literally wanted a piece of him; wanted to be friends with him but of course that was not possible. Sam grew close to Owen Chimhare (who perished with him in the 2010 accident.)Their bond was unbreakable.
Humble as he was, he always interacted with all of us. One of my friends – a talkative and assertive girl called Rutendo Mawoko had the guts to accost him. Thereafter they became very good friends and as such Sam became a friend of a friend. In my books that was good enough.
Sam never bragged about his superstar father, not all. He was as humble as they come.
Every Wednesday, was a club day-when we could do all manner of extracurricular activities. So you can imagine our delight when Sam joined our Marimba club. Together with the late Chimhare, who was better known as DJ Flexx at the time, they revived the club. It became a top class marimba club.
Maybe having superstar Tuku’s son in our marimba club was all the motivation I needed- I began to play a few notes fairly well.
My old school mates at Chindunduma 1 High School also still have fond memories of the down-to-earth Sam.
Rutendo Mawoko shared how he became friends with Sam.
“This other day I went down to the school tuck shop. Sam came by to buy a ‘freezit. ’I just randomly said hi Sam and introduced myself. From then on, ours became a clash of the class clowns.
“He had a larger than life personality and such a great sense of humour. He could have easily won a comedy competition. He was our Trevor Noah.
“The most outstanding thing about him was his humility. Being the son of a music legend didn't make him brag. If he used a different name I don't think anyone would have known that he was Tuku's son. I only knew he had been to Spain after I asked where he got his watch from. Bless his soul.
“One day we were studying in the lower dining hall and I asked him a question. I can't remember exactly how I phrased it but I remember his response was: I want build my own empire. Yeah there's my dad's stuff but I also want to start from scratch and make a name for myself as Sam Mtukudzi not as Tuku's son.
“I can't say I was part of his closest circle of friends, but even though I wasn't, he wouldn't just brush me off when he was with his boys. In fact, we would all chill together like this one time we ran into each other at the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa).When he saw me he did this ‘heeeeyyyy’ that he always did- it was so cute and we chilled together with his boys for the rest of the evening,” she said.
Another schoolmate, Sharon Dube described Sam as humble, ever -smiling, and soft -spoken.
“He revived the school’s cobwebbed marimbas and gave us something to look forward to during club days on Wednesday. One prize -giving day he played the marimba so well that my mum who attended the event asked if the group had been hired by the school. l laughed it off saying :did you not see mini Tuku?”