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Oliver Mtukudzi speaks about child abuse
Jamie Baldwin, Zambian Child
July - September 2004

This article was first published in the Zambian Child. Issue 1, July - September 2004

"It isn't up to governments or organisations to stop child abuse - it is up to us. It is up to you and me. We need to show self-discipline, it is up to us. What shall we do?"

And with the tall, elegant Oliver Mtukudzi, begins softly strumming away on his guitar, singing in his dulcet tones of the matters closet to his heart. A dedicated advocate of social issues, the man affectionately known as Tuku captivated fans with three concerts in Zambia aimed at raising awareness of child abuse. Jamie Baldwin caught up with Oliver after his recent visit to ask why the concerts were so important to him.

JB: How did you feel the three concerts went? Did you enjoy coming to Zambia?

OM: The line up of shows was organised by Kulture consult and were the best we have done so far in Zambia. We particularly enjoyed performing to such a diverse cross section of people which was helped by the venues they chose.

JB: You seem to have strong opinions on the subject of your concerts - child abuse. Why do you feel so strongly about it?

OM: Child abuse just horrifies me altogether but what I have learnt in my life is that every child who is abused in some way is very likely to become an adult who abuses children again.

Harming one's children isn't just about the immediate damage victims of abuse undergo but the thought of the long term damage to the child really troubles me. If left unchecked, it will surely ruin a child's prospects and future.

If you consider the other dangers these days like AIDS and other diseases, it becomes a really major problem that all responsible people just have to tackle.

The media has a big role to play in exposing the problem but as an artist, I know I have a responsibility too. Music has the ability to cross boundaries and reach many listeners.

JB: Have you had any direct or indirect experience of child abuse, neglect or suffering?

OM: Not within my immediate family but indirectly, many cases of neglect and direct abuse have come to my ears. As for suffering, there are far too many children, even in Zimbabwe, who suffer silently in a variety of ways. It's all around me. I have written many songs on these issues over the years and will keep writing them as this is the way I know best.

Prevention is the main theme to pursue because once abuse has occurred, trying to patch up the damage is difficult.

JB: How can communities best tackle issues of child sexual and physical abuse? What would your advice be?

OM: To listen to adult men trying to justify their actions for a variety of 'crazy' reasons is painful.

This is why I encourage families and communities that often know of people who are abusing children to take some kind of action as the law will almost always support them. I encourage them to become to become more proactive, though I suppose the fear is to be sure that you have accurately identified the offenders.

But most groups or communities of people can be far more assertive by making it known how unacceptable it is, especially if they discuss such issues when they meet and talk about the long term impact. To show some understanding as to how such people come to be might reach some of the adults who abuse children or even their wives.

I think we should also be encouraging people to use the law rather than 'street justice'. Ideally a suspect should be being proven guilty of abuse as well.

A woman who knows that her husband is abusing one or all of her children often fears retaliation or similar abuse if she confronts her husband. I can understand this problem.

Ultimately, a hotline for children is perhaps the clearest way forward - we have this in Zimbabwe. A child can call for help without revealing their identity and its working quite well I understand. In rural communities elders in a community or figures with some kind of authority (even chiefs) could assume a similar role. Counselling of the abusers and the abused can also relieve the problem.

JB: A key message from a recent children's national art and essay competition on the worst forms of child labour was that children felt as though they had 'lost their youth' and been forced to become adults too quickly. Can you identify with this?

OM: Definitely, like I said, it is the long-term damage that is even more worrying and one issue that I believe encourages many women to become prostitutes. Its not just an economic necessity as some argue but often due to early abuse which makes them lose their self-respect. What goes around, comes round.

An essay or art competition both provide other avenues for an abused child to express the problem (even subconsciously) in a non-confrontational manner. A bit like the Childline telephone service.

If a topic like 'child abuse' is offered as the subject of a piece of work, one would hope that the adults judging the competition would be more inclined to perceive the problem and follow up with some action and try and intervene, especially counselling. It is always important to listen to what children try to tell us.

About Zambian Child

Zambian Child is an eight page quarterly newspaper aimed at giving a voice to children and child issues in Zambia. The paper is funded by the Anglican Chidlrens Project in conjunction with ILO/IPEC.

Organisations are encouraged to contribute articles, features, photos or information for the In Brief and Diary section. These should be sent by email to the editor Jamie Baldwin at

Visit Oliver Mtukudzi's website

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