Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Hopewell Chin’ono: World Mental Health Day is a reminder of our broken economic and political system

By Hopewell Chin’ono

I met Winnie Ndoro through a friend in 2017 when I was looking for people to participate in a mental health documentary film, which I went on to make and called it State of Mind.

Hopewell Chin'ono
Hopewell Chin’ono

State of Mind is launching today in Harare at Ster Kinekor cinemas in Harare at Sam Levy Village and today is the World Health Mental Day.

Winnie is a bipolar patient but she has managed to have the condition under control through the usage of medical drugs.

She is a single mother with a beautiful daughter who at times makes sure that her mother has taken her medication.

Winnie is a trained sonographer and is very good at her job such that her former boss and the owner of Baines Imaging, Dr Naik, told me that he was happy to keep her job at Baines Imaging each time she had a relapse.

Today Winnie who is now a friend called to tell me that her local pharmacy won’t take her medical aid card anymore and that it won’t take the Bond Note currency either as a form of payment.

This pharmacy like any other pharmacy in the capital city only wants US Dollar payments for Winnie’s mental health medication because the pharmacy’s suppliers are also insisting on the greenback before they can supply medical drug stocks to these pharmacies.

She told me that the drugs cost US$60, at today’s black market rates, she would need $180 to $200 Bond Notes to be able to buy the US$60 on the black market to pay for her drugs failure which she would relapse.

There are many mental health patients like Winnie across the country who are being subjected to these harsh economic realities.

Most of them will suffer in silence and are not able to get any economic assistance to access these all-important medications.

They will relapse and struggle with their mental health conditions and end up in hospitals that don’t have these drugs either.

These are the struggling real everyday people that John Mangudya, George Guvamatanga, Mthuli Ncube and President Emmerson Mnangagwa must meet in order for them to understand the economic futility of the Bond Note and the assortment economic makeshift measures that are being put in place.

Whilst Winnie is worried about her situation, a worry that can trigger another bipolar relapse, citizens stand in horrible awe as they watch the elites bringing in US$3Million cars through Harare International Airport.

That is a behavior what our country has now normalized with citizens ululating at these corrupt elites after 20 years of a ruinous and repressive misrule and looting of national natural resources by those in power and their business surrogates.

In many other countries, elites are embarrassed to show off such profligacy in the midst of biting poverty to a people groaning from the economic burden engineered by the incompetence of the very political elites who run our economy.

Two days ago I spent the whole day at home because I could not get access to any fuel station selling diesel, and yet we woke up to a screaming state controlled Sunday Mail headline saying that there was enough fuel supplies in the country.

Such lies have no place in a so called new republic, all that these lies do is to turn the President’s promises and efforts into some comical Shakespearean political tragedy propaganda project.

When there is an economic crisis, the citizens will respect a government that acknowledges that self-evident reality and then lays out its plans on the way forward.

It is dull, it is arrogant, it is silly and it is comical to publish lies that there are sufficient fuel supplies in the country when a whole capital city has NO diesel and there are fuel queues stretching miles snaking around neighborhoods with gas stations that would have gotten a product.

I stayed at home the whole day two days ago because my fuel tank was empty and I will probably have to hassle today to get diesel in order to make it to my film launch at Sam Levy Village.

The fuel crisis is the least of problems to my friend Winnie, it is a luxury that she can go without, she badly needs her medication to stay sane as she puts it.

She finds a way of staying strong about her condition making jokes about it in order not to upset her daughter.

Without her bipolar medication, she will relapse and lose herself and will not be able to go to work, something that will subject her to the harsh realities of both the economic meltdown and the mental illness anguish.

How will she look after her daughter? How will she pay her bills when she is in hospitals? How will she pick up the pieces?

These are the harsh and painful realities of people living with mental illness conditions, realities that our political elites and their business surrogates seem not to be cognizant of.

We have seen them bellowing political rhetoric and lies spread by the newspapers that should be there to serve the public and not political elites.

Mr President, this is not why many chose to give you a chance, this is not how a second republic should look like and this is not how we should treat our vulnerable compatriots.

If you allow those around you to pillage the state and its auxiliary business units and to flaunt the ill-gotten proceeds of such corrupt enterprises, why should we call it a second republic?

You still have an opportunity to stop this rot Mr President, and going forward life style audits of those who claim to be very close to you will show your seriousness to deal with corruption and that will be the beginning of restoring public confidence in your administration which has currently hit the floor.

Restoring the dignity of many mental health patients across the country like Winnie Ndoro will earn our respect.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.

He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa leadership Institute. Hopewell has a new documentary film coming out which is looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind.

State of Mind has been nominated for a top award in Kenya. You can watch the documentary trailer below. Hopewell can be contacted at hopewell2@post.harvard.edu or on Twitter @daddyhope