Oliver Mtukudzi’s recognition as the first ever Zimbabwean Unicef Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa is no doubt the highest honour bestowed on this legendary musician.
“Tuku”, as he is affectionately known to the legions of his fans around the world, was conferred with this title at a ceremony to mark the Day of the African Child, in Harare on Thursday.
Also known as the Soweto Uprising, June 16 protests were a series of student-led demonstrations in South Africa that began on the morning of June 16, 1976 with over 20 000 schoolchildren protesting against the introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in local schools.
The apartheid regime reacted by shooting the students, killing 176 of them and injuring thousands more.
Through his music, Mtukudzi has highlighted and exposed such crimes against women and children.
Neria is one of the songs that comes into mind as it is a soundtrack developed for a film that genuinely demonstrated commitment to women and children’s rights.
These rights also include the children’s right to live free from HIV and Aids.
This year’s Day of the African Child commemorations were held under the African Union theme: “All Together for Urgent Actions to Street Children”.
Zimbabwe faces a mammoth task in dealing with children living on the streets, a reflection of the growing number of orphaned children.
There is a saying in Africa that “it takes a whole village to raise a child” and, as Tuku rightfully said in his acceptance speech of the honour, every child belongs to a family.
Mtukudzi’s music, which spans over 30 years, has appealed to wide audiences around the world and this new portfolio will expose him to over 150 countries where Unicef has influence.
Everywhere in the world, Tuku’s music has a place on the airwaves, an indication that he has stolen the hearts of many people regardless of language barriers.
Tuku’s music carries some very profound messages that deal with the daily challenges of life and hence his dramatic rise to fame.
As a goodwill ambassador, Tuku will focus on HIV and Aids prevention, youth development and participation, assisting Unicef in its advocacy and programme efforts.
Past Unicef goodwill ambassadors have included Mama Africa Yvonne “Chaka Chaka” Machaka of South Africa.
The grand honour comes at a time when Tuku’s morale had plunged to an all-time low following death of his only son Sam in March last year.
Sam had also started on a meteoric rise on Zimbabwe’s music charts.