Senior Arts Reporter
Comedian Lazarus Boora, popularly known as Gringo, who died yesterday morning at West View Medical Clinic will be buried on Thursday at his rural home in Rukweza, Rusape.
He was 47.
He succumbed to stomach cancer around 9am yesterday despite concerted efforts by doctors to stop the disease from spreading to other parts of the body.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said in a statement yesterday that the arts community and the nation had lost a great actor.
“My fellow countrymen, this morning (yesterday), we learnt of the passing of one of Zimbabwe’s talented comic actors, Lazarus Boora, popularly known as Gringo,” she said.
“Allow me on behalf of His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa and the nation to convey my condolences to the Boora family.
“Lazarus may have left us, but he will forever be remembered as our dear Gringo, a man who brought joy and laughter in our homes. May his dear soul rest in peace.”
Minister Mutsvangwa chronicled the history of Gringo, starting from the days he attended primary school in his home area in Rusape, Manicaland, where he was born in an area called Rukweza.
Gringo then came to Harare for his secondary education.
“It was during these formative years that his potential in the arts sector came to light,” said the Minister.
“He later went on to attend Mutare Teachers’ College where he studied drama. To further his education in the arts, he then enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe where he studied theatre and dance.”
Gringo then joined various theatrical groups, and rubbed shoulders with highly professional theatre gurus who helped him hone his acting skills.
“In 1997, Lazarus had his television debut when he acted a minor role as a junior policeman in Aaron Chiundura-Moyo’s popular television drama series ‘Chihwerure’,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“The following year, 1998, Lazarus Boora was cast as Gringo in a television comedy drama series which was an adaptation of a cartoon character by Enock Chihombori.
“He became an instant hit with Zimbabwean television viewers. His co-actors also found themselves in the lime light as the Zimbabwean TV audience fell in love with the drama series.
“From then, he became known as Gringo, and this became the platform to carry out his passion, entertaining Zimbabweans and the world at large.”
In 2002, “Gringo Ndiyani”, a production fronted by Gringo won the Best TV Drama Series award at the inaugural National Arts Merit Awards, while Gringo walked away with the best Actor Award and the writer, Enock Chihombori won the Best Film and Television Script writer’s award.
Minister Mutsvangwa said this was a testament that the series was one of Zimbabwe’s finest comedies and further affirmed Gringo’s excellent acting abilities.
Gringo’s aunt, Mrs Esther Manheya (sister to Gringo’s mother), confirmed the funeral arrangements, saying a farewell ceremony for his Harare friends and fans would be held tomorrow before the body is taken to his rural home.
“We are very saddened as a family,” she said. “Gringo died around 9am yesterday when we were visiting. The funeral wake is at his brother Mr William Musakwa’s residence in Zimre Park and we have discussed as a family that tomorrow, we conduct a farewell ceremony for his friends and fans, before he leaves for Rukweza Village.
“The programme on what is going to be done at the ceremony is still being worked on, but we will involve those who are relevant in it. He will be buried on Thursday afternoon.”
She said the ceremony would be conducted at number 6653 Bvumba Road, Zimre Park.
Dr Johannes Marisa, who had undertaken to help treat Gringo following an appeal by the family last week when his condition deteriorated, said not much could have been done as the cancer had spread to other body parts.
“Gringo had stomach cancer which had already spread to some parts of the body,” he said. “We did the scan and the results came (but were not good) and like I said, I could not share with the media before the family.
“I told the family on Sunday and yesterday we had agreed to do a computerised tomography scan popularly known as ‘CT scan’. It seems he suffered a lot in the past months but did not know about his condition. It was too late for us to save him.”
In an interview yesterday from his base in South Africa, Chihombori, the man who created Gringo, said the country had lost a great character in the arts industry.
He vividly remembered his first encounter with him and said he was fun-loving, but very talented.
“We have lost a great character,” said Chihombori. “My memory with him dates back to the time we met and started shooting Gringo. He was a fun-loving and cheerful character.
“Even during the shoot when you gave him a script, he would go the extra mile being creative. He would make people feel at home by continuously cracking jokes each time he was on set.
“My experience with him in his acting career was amazing as I learnt a lot from Gringo. I will miss him dearly. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it to the funeral because I am in South Africa right now, but I salute you Lazarus.”
National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) director, Mr Nicholas Moyo, described Gringo as a rare breed of a comedian, who was propelled to fame by the 1997 ZBCtv hit drama series “Gringo” and he subsequently featured in other spin-offs of the show like “Gringo Ndiani?” and “Gringo Mari Iripi?”
He recently starred as “Gibbo” in the series “Village Secrets”.
“Boora will be remembered forever as the master of local television with his signature makeshift khaki short, black vest, barefoot and his witty humour which kept millions of Zimbabweans glued to their television sets,” said Moyo.
“The NACZ management and staff would like to express their sincerest condolences to Amai Boora and the Boora family, the arts fraternity and the nation at large following the passing on of one of the country’s most recognisable television personalities. May his soul rest in peace.”
Gringo became popular in the early 90s when he began his acting career.
He is survived by seven children and wife Netsai.