Died in Vain?

Life skills, dance, art, soapstone sculpture: he taught all these to the pre-independence youth of Zimbabwe especially in the black high-density townships of Mabvuku and Mbare. One day he dialled 99 for an ambulance to ferry a man who had been knocked down by a car on Bulawayo Road just outside the Salisbury Polytechnic near the Show Grounds.

Reverend Father Christopher Shepherd-Smith SJ

An argument soon ensued: having heard a white man’s voice the 99 team had dispatched a white people’s ambulance whereas the injured man was black. Reverend Father Christopher Shepherd-Smith heaved the injured man onto the ambulance and took the wheel himself before the white driver reclaimed the ambulance under protest. Some young men and women took to the bush to fight inequality among the races in the provision of ambulance and hospital services. The Liberation War claimed many innocent lives. Chris himself perished aged 34 on February 6th 1977 as one of 7 missionaries who were rounded up and shot dead in one night at St Paul’s Mission Musami in Mashonaland East.

Freedom and equality theoretically arrived at Independence on April 18th 1980. Theoretical because thanks to ZANU PF corruption and mismanagement there are now hardly any ambulances, medicines or hospital services to be equal about. The filthy rich in Government can afford to receive medical treatment across the border or overseas. Meanwhile the helpless hapless masses languish in poverty, disease, humiliation and intimidation. Should they be fortunate enough to be hospitalised locally they are asked for the impossible: to provide their own food, water, drips, oxygen tanks, medicines, bandages and injections – none of which they can really afford since money and employment have all evaporated thanks to 37 years of ZANU PF corruption, nepotism and selfish anti-investment policies. In vain did the missionaries and the people die?

Today’s breaking news is that The World Health Organization has revoked the appointment of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following a widespread outcry. Critics point out that Zimbabwe’s healthcare system has collapsed under Mr Mugabe’s 30-year rule. Staff often go without pay, medicines are in short supply, and Mr Mugabe, who has outlived the average life expectancy in his country by three decades, travels abroad for medical treatment.

According to The World Food Programme, Zimbabwe is a low-income, food deficit country. At the peak of the 2017 lean season, 4.1 million people were estimated to be food-insecure. Starvation kills directly or by lowering people’s immunity.  

Affirmative action at the 2018 Ballot Box may be the battle that will ensure that those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our equality, fraternity and freedom did not die in vain.

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