By Sinikiwe Marodza
The world lost a great musician and an entertainer in Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi, but children within the Southern and Eastern parts of Africa lost a voice that spoke on their behalf, a selfless advocate who stood for their rights, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has said.
Mtukudzi was UNICEF goodwill ambassador since 2011, until the time of his death.
Less privileged children across 20 countries that make the Eastern and Southern region of Africa hold testimonies on how the late music icon made an impact in protecting their rights and educating them about HIV and Aids.
As the UNICEF goodwill ambassador he achieved notable successes in protecting children’s rights.
In all these years, through his powerful lyrics, the late Zimbabwean national hero made an impact in developing young children and teaching them about HIV and Aids.
His songs such as "Todii", "Street Kid" and "Haasati Akura", to mention just a few, are true testimonies of how much he questioned society’s response to HIV and Aids.
Tuku, as he was fondly referred to by his legion of fans, made great strides in protecting children’s rights.
Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, UNICEF regional director in Southern and Eastern Africa, said it was not only the region that had lost a champion in children’s rights, but the entire world.
“UNICEF joins the people of Zimbabwe and music lovers worldwide in mourning the loss of celebrated singer and songwriter Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi, who was a UNICEF regional goodwill ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“Following his appointment in June 2011, UNICEF had the pleasure of working with Oliver Mtukudzi on issues relating to young people's development and HIV and Aids prevention in the Eastern and Southern parts of Africa.
“He used the power of music and impactful lyrics to speak out against stigma, discrimination and abuse of children, and inspired people at all levels of society to take action on behalf of children.
“He was committed to his role as our goodwill ambassador,” she said.
Gharagozloo-Pakkala said Mtukudzi had left a void that will take time to replace.
“His contribution within the UNICEF set up will surely be missed and Oliver Mtukudzi gave his life for a social cause, we appreciate his contributions. He will be greatly missed.
“We honour his memory as a champion for children’s rights,” she added.
Tuku is among other prominent figures to assume a humanitarian role with UNICEF.
According to UNICEF, in Zimbabwe, the growing population of children living on the streets is a reflection of the high orphan population in the country. One in four children in Zimbabwe has lost one or both parents, most of them as a result of HIV and Aids.
Many of these young people face immense challenges and deprivation and struggle to access even the most basic social services, forcing them into undesirable situations such as living on the streets and Mtukudzi was a father figure in the lives of these children.
Mtukudzi’s advocacy for children and women’s rights did not only start with UNICEF, but it dates back to 1993 when he played a role in the movie, Neria, that advocates for women’s rights.
The musician died on January 23 at the Avenues Clinic in Harare after succumbing to diabetes and through his good works, he was accorded the country's national hero status, becoming the first musician to receive such an honour.
He was buried on January 27, at his rural home in Madziva district in Mashonaland Central province.