Tributes paid after Afro-pop star Zahara dies aged 36 following long struggle with alcohol abuse

12 December 2023, 13:03 | Updated: 12 December 2023, 13:05

Zahara died at the age of just 36
Zahara died at the age of just 36. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

Tributes have been paid after the death of South African Afro-pop singer Zahara who had been hospitalised with liver complications.

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The award-winning singer, 36, had previously spoken about her struggles with alcohol addiction.

Last month, the family of the singer, whose real name is Bulelwa Mkutukana, said she had been admitted to hospital and asked South Africans to pray for her.

South Africa’s sports, arts and culture minister, Zizi Kodwa, paid tribute, saying: “My deepest condolences to the Mkutukana family and the South African music industry.

“Government has been with the family for some time now. Zahara and her guitar made an incredible and lasting impact in South African music.”

"Her lasting memory in our hearts and mind must be her ability to bring comfort and resonate with the struggles of the poorest of the poor," the radical Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party said in a statement.

Zahara suffered liver disease after struggling with alcoholism during her life.

Her sister Nomonde said that year doctors had told her, “if [Zahara] continues drinking, she is going to die … We are making sure that there is always someone around her to monitor her so that she doesn’t start drinking again”.

She has been praised for leaving behind a legacy of ‘such beautiful music’.

She released five albums and won dozens of awards, both locally and internationally.

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