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Zahara: South African music icon dies aged 36 – BBC News

By Wycliffe Muia

Zahara had a huge fan base across Africa

Award-winning South African Afro-pop singer Bulelwa Mkutukana, popularly known as Zahara, has died, the country’s culture minister announced.

She had been in hospital, reportedly with liver complications, and the government had been assisting the family “for some time”, Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa said.

The songstress won fame in 2011 with her album Loliwe, loved across Africa.

In 2019, Zahara opened up about her battle with alcohol addiction.

Last month, the family confirmed she had been admitted to hospital and called on South Africans to keep the musician in their prayers.

She passed away on Monday night in a Johannesburg hospital at the age of 36, the public broadcaster, SABC, reports.

In a statement posted on Zahara’s Instagram account, her family said: “She was a pure light, and an even purer heart, in this world. A beacon of hope, a gift, and a blessing to us and countless people around the world.”

Fans have been grieving and sharing fond memories of her on social media.

“Zahara and her guitar made an incredible and lasting impact in South African music,” Mr Kodwa posted on X (formerly Twitter).

“She left us with such beautiful music,” one X user posted.

Zahara, who released five albums, won dozens of awards both local and international. In 2020, she was named in the BBC’s 100 Women list.

The songwriter also used her platform to speak out about violence against women in South Africa, something she revealed had happened to her.

In an interview with a local radio last year, Zahara said her music was not for recognition but to bring comfort to broken souls that need healing.

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