Tribute to Dr Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi: A Legendary Icon 1952-2019


Tuku applied his influential status as a global icon, UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa, gender equality champion and philanthropist to bridge social and cultural gaps to advocate for social development and advance critical social responses. Tuku made tremendous contributions to the HIV discourse in Zimbabwe through the hit song ‘Todii’ (What shall we do?), which called for critical reflections on social norms that continued to fuel high incidence of HIV prevalence, as well as stigma and discrimination. The song, and similar ‘Todii’-inspired songs played a pivotal role in ultimately inspiring increased awareness on HIV and the need for behaviour change to prevent infection. Through his musical lyrics and acting, Tuku addressed the treatment of women and promoted gender equality through the hit movie and song ‘Neria;’ which highlighted the status of women (“vanhukadzi vanobatwa senhapwa”- women are treated like slaves). In ‘Tozeza,’ Tuku addressed gender based violence, calling for zero tolerance to violence and positive change in gender norms; whilst speaking against child marriage in the song  ‘Haasati aziva’ (You cannot pledge your child for marriage) denouncing stigma, discrimination and abuse of children, and inspiring collective action to end child marriage.

Tuku’s influence has over the years continued to inspire national reflections on the role of culture in the HIV, GBV and gender equality discourses, greatly influencing responses in civil society and academia, among other sectors. His musical and artistic genius will posthumously continue to inspire hope across generations, bring to the forefront social issues, and convey important messages and ideals contributing to positive change and increased collective action towards promoting social development and equality for all.

In honouring his memory, SAfAIDS cherishes his legacy of unity, love, hope, equality and respect for human dignity.

SAfAIDS extends sincerest condolences to the Mtukudzi family, Zimbabwean community and friends and fans across the world.


Thank you Samanyanga for the wonderful lessons.

Rest in peace

Zororai murugare

Lala ngokuthula

Your legacy lives on!

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