Memorium for dying Zimbabwe
Reading the ever worsening news about Zimbabwe, fills me with an ever deepening sadness. Not just over the unprecedented death toll from...
Reading the ever worsening news about Zimbabwe, fills me with an ever deepening sadness. Not just over the unprecedented death toll from cholera, but to see a country that was once a shining example to other African countries emerging from under the umbrellas of colonialism.
It’s capital, then called Salisbury was a beautifully laid out city, with wide tree lined streets, and multiple highly efficient government run hospitals. I know, I was treated in one of them. when Southern Rhodesia was part of the Central African Federation which included Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi).
Alas, the CAA dissolved, a buccaneering WWII fighter pilot Ian Smith made a UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) from Britain, which led to the long drawn out guerrilla warfare, with the resistance movement led by Robert Mugabe, educated by the Jesuits, who moved from being an admired freedom fighter, propounding racial equality and throwing off the last desperate rearguard action of home bred colonialists, to one of the worst dictators on the continent. From being a praised leader to a despised and reviled egocentric destroyer of his own people.
In Malawi another dictator took over Doctot Hastings Banda, who had lived in exile in Britain before the break up of the CAA, To the shame of his people and his profession, he built palaces for himself, and let the country’s hospitals fall to bits.
When I was working with CPAR (Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief), doctors returning from Malawi described hospitals without X-Ray equipment and other basic necessities. If a machine broke down, it was never fixed or replaced.
Only Zambia seemed to survive with a vestige of democracy, and working institutions. It was there that I witnessed the world’s last smallpox outbreak, and saw how rapidly it was contained. I watched as thousands of Africans from remote villages and towns arrived at bus stations in Ndola to find vaccination teams waiting for them. And I shared the grief of a co-worker who lost two children to one of the great killers of the past. But the hospitals worked.
Now I watch the BBC to see families in Harare using wheelbarrows as “ambulances” to carry the sick and dying, to hospitals where there is no room or treatment.
This in a country high on the Central African Plateau with a wondrous climate. A place where before the Salk vaccine, sufferers from tuberculosis went to breath the fresh air.
It is a country believed by many anthropologists to be the birthplace of mankind. It is named after the Zimbabwe (Great stone) ruins spread over 200 square miles and built between the 11th and 15th centuries.
It is a country with a noble past and, one prays a future where its people can benefit from its environment.
In the meantime, the world wrings it hands, mutters platitudes, and watches as it self destructs.
An African song called Zimbabwe, reads “Oh, happy happy, Africa, take me back to Africa” Not to today’s Zimbabwe.