The manner in which Zimbabwe treats its sick and elderly reveals a cold dark soul!

Whenever someone reaches out to me, highlighting the painful plight they are enduring in this country, I am always unbearably grief stricken - as some of their stories are truly heartrending and harrowing.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

However, as to be expected, there are some experiences that are undoubtedly more distressingly tragic than others – and, what I learnt over the past few days is arguably one of those, as I was left nearly to tears, and could literally feel the anguish tormenting my heart.

The final paragraph of the latest email I received was most saddening – in which the heartbroken writer, as if through tears, said, “my sister who looks after my brother is slowly going downhill as she feels that it is her fault”, since the family can not secure relevant treatment for a cancer that has been afflicting their elderly sibling for quite some time.

Why?

… because the only five radiotherapy machines in the entire country are not working – and, have not been operational for quite some time – thereby, prejudicing those seeking urgent oncological treatment, whose lives are not only being placed in a most precarious dilemma, but have to endure untold pain.

My mind could not help racing back to 2015, when my own elderly mother was diagnosed with colon cancer – and, the unbearably excruciating pain that I had to watch her go through, as she had to undergo surgery, and then months of chemotherapy.

That was arguably the most devastating period of my life.

What exacerbated an already dire process, more than the torturous disease itself, was the lack of government-funded facilities that could cater for the highly expensive chemotherapy treatment – which made every impending 200-kilometer trip to Bulawayo’s Mpilo Central Hospital (the only of two centres in the entire country, the other being in the capital Harare) nightmarish, as we tried to figure out where we were to get the money.

The image of my mother nearly on the verge of giving up, and seemingly making ready for imminent death – as she honestly believed we would not be able to secure the cash – still haunts me up to this day.

To make matters worse, each time she returned home to Redcliff – from her monthly six-day chemotherapy sessions – she would agonizingly narrate how other patients, who were even more disadvantaged, and whose cancers had reached severe stages (some with eyes and other organs having already been eaten up), were suffering as they could not access any treatment at this government institution.

Therefore, when I received an email from a 75 year old man, who was obviously immensely tormented by his 77 year-old brother’s plight – who could not access the much-needed radiotherapy treatment (since none of the measly five machines in the whole of Zimbabwe were working) – I immediately empathized with him.

Surely, what manner of a country – considering the known huge numbers of cancer patients, as one of the most common, painful, and fatal non-communicable diseases in Zimbabwe – would only have a paltry five radiotherapy machines?

What more, the country does not even have a single qualified technician to repair any of them – and, has to rely on those from neighboring South Africa, who will need to come over to determine what the fault is and what is required, thereafter returning south to obtain the necessary parts.

Probably such a sickening and embarrassing situation could have worked if the machines were being fixed – but, as this family has been experiencing, no repairs have been forthcoming – whilst, they helplessly and hopelessly watch their loved one slowly deteriorating.

As if this already untenable scenario was not humiliating enough – the responsible medical authorities actually asked the distressed family to search for donors, who could fund the required repairs, in order to speed up the process!

Again I ask, what manner of a nation does that?

Whilst, the government is never short of cash to finance one of the most expensive traffic interchanges on the African continent, fly unnecessarily large presidential delegations to summits, and generally boast of multi-billion dollar budget surpluses – are they seriously telling us that they do not have money to fix even one of those five radiotherapy machines?

Have they no shame in asking families of patients to source for funding to repair government equipment?

I will not even bother wondering why the state is simply not acquiring new machines – since, that would be expecting too much, from a people who would rather buy expensive Scotch whiskeys on presidential state visits, than care about the livelihoods of the ordinary citizenry.

What does this say about the soul of our country?

The great revolutionary and anti-apartheid statesman – Nelson Mandela – once said, “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.

However, I dare borrow these wise words, and say, “there can be no keener revelation of a country’s soul than the way it treats its sick, elderly, and disadvantaged”.

Zimbabwe’s cold dark soul had been laid bare for the whole world to see, and we should be ashamed…very ashamed.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

Post published in: Featured

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *