By Ken Mufuka
Zimbabwe has been blessed by gifted people like Hopewell Chin’ono and Dr. Anna Mushamba. When I watched the video story of Dr. Mushamba, introduced as Head of Pediatrics at Parirenyatwa Hospital, I joined her as she shed tears about the hopeless situation she finds herself in.
The case, as was described by Dr. Mushamba is that the “authorities” responsible for the health system in Zimbabwe pay no mind to what the physicians say. She says that when she writes a list of the necessities, the list is sent to tender, and no urgency is attached to it.
Though I had heard of horror stories, hearing from the horse’s mouth had its effect on me. Hospitals are short of bandages, that nurses have found themselves “washing” or re-using bandages; another report says that doctors have substituted condoms for gloves, that vital necessities occasionally run out during operations and physicians’ requests are treated in a nonchalant attitude.
“I have written a thousand lists, but the requests are not treated with urgency.” I heard her say.
This road has been traveled before.
Hopewell has reacted with a missionary spirit. Surely, with 4.5 million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, we can save our country. If we put our hands to the plow, not look back, the future is ours.
Hopewell’s call is for each one of us to adopt a hospital.
I pray that the time has come for this great missionary endeavour, and that attitudes will change in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean authorities have a know- it-all singular attitude. If they change their attitude, we will all do well.
Many years ago, David Thistle, MD., a servant of Jesus Christ, visited Zimbabwe on secondment from Canada. He was attached to Howard Salvation Army Hospital. Seeing the need, he returned to Canada, went to seminary and returned as a missionary doctor.
An association by former Howard institute students was formed in Canada to support his work. The Canadian branch of the Salvation Army joined in the effort, and little children around Nyachuru Village began to wear tasty clothes and rode on kiddy bikes donated by Canadians.
My niece, Nyasha Mufuka, a girl from a nearby village, gave birth to conjoined twins. Canadian well wishers flew the girl to Canada for an advanced operation. On her return, she was met at the airport by Minister of Health, Dr. David Parirenyatwa and church officials.
The church officials found Thistle’s efforts and fame, which pointed in the direction of Mother Theresa’s, insufferable, and conspired to transfer him to a non-medical facility somewhere in the bush.
He was accused of colonialism, (he was a white Canadian married to a black woman), insubordination, accepting used drugs and overnight he became a villain.
Problems with customs officials arose and all sorts of trumped up charges were brought against the saint.
The issue here is that Zimbabwean “authorities” in the name of ZANU-PF want all charities directed in their name, and that they announce the bounty for which they contributed nothing.
The accusation about expiration of drugs is a red herring. US Pharmaceutical Companies (known here as Big Pharmas) are very generous if approached properly s they want to find charitable conduits for their surplus drugs.
Properly directed, such charitable donations are tax deductible.
Just last year, another nephew of mine, Itai Mhofu, MD, (name slightly altered) who has vast experience with the US Center for Disease Control and has worked in Guinea Papua with tropical diseases, took home two boxes of medicines at the request of a resident Zimbabwean doctor.
He was harassed by customs officials and almost slept in a Zimbo jailhouse. Common sense would have required for the Zimbabwean doctor to pick up the medicines on payment of a nominal duty.
We have no knowledge of the final destination of those boxes of medicines.
I took some American students to Nerupiri School in Chief Nerupiri paramountcy. A nine-year poetess, who had performed brilliantly was absent for lack of tuition fees. The fee was USD5. After shedding tears, we were moved by the Holy Spirit “to do something” about and we “organized” (Zimbabwean English five bursaries for needy kids for one year. The paramount chief had more sense than ZANU-PF Commissar Bernard Nyoni. The chief was moved and gave us three chickens in gratitude. The Commissar was very angry.
“How can you just come into our area and give our kids bursaries without consulting ZANU-PF.?” He created a very ugly scene.
I was placed under investigation; my offense was “political ambition.”
For eight years I served on the South Carolina Methodist State Equitable Compensation Commission, four of which I was chairman. Our church had programs for Africa; one was for the eradication of malaria in Africa. A longer running program was providing safe water. As chairman of the church council at Trinity Methodist, I would cry privately as I collected shoes and other gifts for our brothers in Kenya.
I will explain below. My eye doctor belongs to a cutting edge group of specialists that perform laser eye operations, allowing their patients to drive themselves home the same day. They visit Kenya for one month every year as part of their Christian contribution to the least among us.
Imagine, placing me in a situation where I have to encourage them to go to Kenya when rightly they should go to Zimbabwe. They work for free, pay their way there and use their equipment and collaborate with Kenyan doctors.
Zimbabwe is hostile and is the most difficult African country to work in. An Indian doctor, on an exploration journey, working with a Zimbabwean private hospital, says that he found himself in the custody of a “posse” from the Ministry of Health, whose only intention was to lock him up. They paid him no attention whatever when he explained that he was invited and that he was an observer.
Corruption in Zimbabwe makes the smallest virtuous deed suspicious. The US government has a generous spirit where church related charities, if properly documented, can be tax deductible. There are many examples where I have begged church related authorities to provide me with receipts. There are women’s sororities here that are keen to help “one black girl” if proper arrangements can be made.
To ask for documentation is like asking for self-incrimination, an action forbidden by the US Constitution Amendment No 5. The Kenyan bishop I have worked with, Bishop Manasseh Mankuleyo, has no problem visiting the US, and providing pictures and videos of the orphanage he runs in Kenya.
A daughter ruler in the Baptist Church, daughter to the Reverend Dr. Ed Johnson, my friend, visited the sister churches in Kenya and stayed for three months longer than she had anticipated. She is now filled with power and has devoted her life to help Baptist initiatives especially for the girl child.
I am glad my brother Hopewell has taken the challenge to recondition efforts in the Diaspora towards the homeland. As I write, Zimbabwean Minister of Health and six officials are in Johannesburg seeking help. My information from there is that only six people turned up to hear the appeal.
Zimbabwean officials usually have a false pride. They are utterly incognizant of their own depravity, and pretend to speak with power, travel in first class, and stay in Hilton and Sheraton Hotels, curse out imperialists, meanwhile they are begging for handouts.
Just one last thought. When I saw Dr. Mushamba cry in desperation, I said: “This lady is too precious to be allowed to stay in Zimbabwe. If she stays she will go bonkers.” If she contacts me, I will get her in touch with a Zimbabwean woman paediatrician who tried her luck in the homeland twice, and is now back in the US for the second time.
We will do everything we can to make Hopewell’s project a success. Hopewell can do Zimbabwe a favor if he exposes any artificial impediments (zvimhingamupinyu) which will be placed I his way by Zimbabwe authorities.
Hopewell, you are my hero.
(Ken Mufuka writes from the US. He has written nine books. His latest book, Life and Times of Robert Mugabe: Dream Betrayed is available in Zimbabwe through Innov Bookshops and Amabuku in Bulawayo. His works can also be accessed through kenmufukabooks.com.. He can be contacted at [email protected])