Afro-pop Umanji dies from Aids

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Internationally-acclaimed and award-winning musician Umanji died early yesterday morning - from an Aids-related disease.

Umanji, whose real name was Maruti Johannes Nkuna, died at the Zebediela Hospital in Limpopo from "pneumonia".

His death was confirmed by his doctor, Joe Thubakgale, and his manager, Phil Hollies, last night.

His younger brother, Andries Nkuna, said his brother would be buried in his home town on March 8.

Umanji, who was admired for his Afro-pop style, became ill in 2006 with TB. His health quickly deteriorated and this fuelled speculation that he was HIV-positive. He flatly denied it.

But after an exposé by a Sunday newspaper last year that his long-time fiancée had been a prostitute in Johannesburg, Umanji admitted that he was HIV-positive.

He also made headlines when he claimed he had been sidelined from performing live because of his contracting the virus. He lambasted the department of health and social development in Limpopo for reneging on a promise to make him an HIV-Aids ambassador.

Departmental spokesman Phuti "Motswalle" Seloba dismissed Umanji's claims.

Manager Hollies said: "We have lost a musician who contributed immensely to the growth of the music industry in the country."

lUmanji's death comes two weeks after another singer, Zombo, also died from an Aids-related disease.