Eastern Cape singer-songwriter Zahara is experiencing another huge surge in popularity as she gives voice to the nation’s outpouring of love for Nelson Mandela. At the ANC’s send-off for Mandela at Air Force Base Waterkloof yesterday, the Afro-soul star performed her rousing song Mandela, accompanied by spoken-word poet Mzwakhe Mbuli. Ahead of Zahara’s performance, Mbuli delivered a poem in praise of the ANC and Mandela, working the crowd, who broke into song and began clapping and waving flags. When Zahara’s backing track began, she appeared to be caught slightly unaware and quickly began strumming on her trademark guitar. The song was a highlight of the ANC memorial, with people waving their hands and singing along. On Twitter, however, some people complained that Zahara was lip-syncing and that she should have sung live on an occasion such as this. “Lip-syncing, my dear? Here? Really? #Zahara #MadibaMemorial” tweeted @Afripopmag. Watching the footage closely, it appears that both Zahara and Mbuli were syncing to a playback of their song, but also singing and speaking into live microphones. When asked if she’d partly lip-synced, Zahara’s manager, record boss TK Nciza, went silent and then chuckled. Finally, he said: “It doesn’t matter. Our focus is on Madiba and moving people through the song?...?It’s part of life?...?Why didn’t they ask if Rihanna was lip-syncing?” Lip-syncing has become the norm for performers at crucial events and most big concerts – and it has been for years. Yet there was a global outcry when Beyoncé admitted that she lip-synced the Star-Spangled Banner, the US national anthem, at US President Barack Obama’s inauguration earlier this year. She said the occasion was too big to risk a mistake. At the ANC centenary celebrations in Mangaung last year, Zahara came in for a drubbing from fans for appearing nervous and unsure of some lyrics when singing Dorothy Masuku’s legendary Meadowlands. Nonetheless, Zahara’s connection to Mandela through her songs and being the brand ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital has opened a new chapter in her career. Nciza said there has been a flood of calls requesting use of her Mandela song and offers of tours to the US, the UK and Canada. Nciza said that he was not in talks with anyone as he and Zahara had been too busy. He said he’d follow up after Mandela had been laid to rest. He told City Press that he and Zahara were heading to Qunu, where the singer was to perform at last night’s vigil for Mandela. They would then attend today’s funeral. Zahara famously played her guitar and performed a song in isiXhosa for Mandela late in 2011 at his home in Qunu. Although frail and infirm, he gazed at the singer intently. Mandela always loved traditional Xhosa songs performed by women. It was the sound he grew up with.