UKZN honours Yvonne

2012-04-20 00:00

SOUTH African music icon Yvonne Chaka Chaka Mhinga yesterday received an honorary doctorate at at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus.

She told to The Witness: “I feel very happy and am humbled by this. It is like someone has been watching me and feels that I deserve this honour.”

The university recognised Mhinga for her humanitarian work in Africa and other parts of the world in raising awareness on issues affecting women, including malaria, maternal and child health, HIV, empowerment, education and poverty.

She added: “We all have a passion for something. It all started with my music and my travels have made me aware of issues around the world. I believe that you have to change people’s lives. I never planned for all of this to happen, but have become the voice of the voiceless.”

The “Princess of Africa”, as she is known, grew up in Soweto and was raised by her mother, who was a domestic worker.

“My father passed away when I was 11 and I was raised by a single parent. My mother was very protective of my siblings and me. She was everything to us,” she said.

Mhinga started singing at a young age and has produced 20 albums. Some of her hit tracks include I’m in Love With a DJ, Thank You Mr DJ and Umqombothi.

She is a strong believer in education. She has two diplomas from the University of South Africa (Unisa), one in adult education and another in local government, management and administration.

She said: “My mother was not educated and so she wanted the best for her children.

“She pushed us to go to university and get an education in order to become better people.”

Today Mhinga has her own record label and production company and a charity called The Princess of Africa Foundation, which serves to raise awareness on malaria.

She is Unicef’s goodwill ambassador in the fight against malaria, an ambassador for Roll-Back Malaria and the first ambassador for former president Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund.

In 2010 she was honoured with a special award from Roll-Back Malaria and the UN’s goodwill ambassador for her contribution and commitment to empowering women and children in their fight to free Africa from diseases such as HIV and malaria.

Although much has been done to raise awareness on issues like HIV and malaria, she feels that there are still challenges and that much more needs to be done.

“Many people have known and talked about HIV, but have only started talking about other illnesses like TB and malaria.”

Early this year, the music legend became the first African woman to receive the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award in Switzerland.

“I am not one of those people who do things because I want recognition. It is not about me. It is more about the end product, the people’s lives,” she said.

• Siyathemba.Ben@media24.com

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