MTHABISI Tawanda Nembaware, who died in a road traffic accident (RTA) in the Mutare area, was my uncle, or sekuru. In Shona, we say mwana wehanzvadzi yamai wangu so that one quickly grasps the depth of the relationship.
We are of the same ancestry. His father and my mother are siblings. His father is the legendary Lot Nembaware, who taught me how to drive. A number of you who follow my articles have contacted me and asked if Tawanda is the son of Uncle Lot, who taught me how to drive when I was 13 years old.
The country robbed
You are reading about Tawanda on my page because his death has captured the imagination of the nation. He was a top-class medical missionary. He is even preaching on his way into his grave judging from the way his death has become topical in Zimbabwe. He loved to preach especially on health and wellness.
Tawanda was a very sharp young man, who went to Nyazura Mission and Anderson Adventist High before enrolling at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences.
He majored in physiology while studying medicine at UZ. I am told not every student intercalates. Only a few sharp and determined ones are allowed.
He had completed his medical schooling and was working in Hauna as a medical officer. He must have chosen Hauna because it is close to his parents, who own a farm in the Old Mutare area.
He had his parents at heart, and he used to tell me he had a dream of developing the farm and doing wonders with it. He had always wanted to give back to Manicaland as well. Whenever I asked him what his plans were for specialising, he would say, “muzukuru, my mind is leaning towards gynecology”.
I would tease him and say you are the only mhofu I can trust with women as a gynecologist. We all know the joke about mhofu's love for women. There was the temptation to emigrate to the UK whenever he endured the frustration that goes with being a medical doctor in Zimbabwe.
We had become an unbeatable tag team when planning and arranging funerals for relatives’ funerals, from burial orders to all funeral logistics.
I stayed away from any logistics to do with Tawanda’s funeral because I simply did not want to accept that he is gone, and also planning for his funeral would remind me of my dad's recent funeral. There is a certain trauma that comes with being at the forefront of funerals of close relatives.
Tawanda the devout Christian
I called him Mhofu, or by his nickname Doc Bhati, and he called me Baba waPanashe, or by my totem gwayi. I nicknamed him Doc Bhati in our WhatsApp group meant for grandchildren of Lloyd and Beatrice Nembaware, who were our grandparents. The nickname Bhati was a bustardised version of Bud Hall, owner of the famed B and C buses from Mutare.
Bud Hall was our relative, having married my mother’s cousin's sister,
Cecilia. Why did I nickname him Bhati? Because the original Bhati was a famed Christian, blameless and righteous in our eyes, who prayed and ate healthily and did not miss a second to preach to you whenever he met you.
When I was 29 years old, after completing my MBA, I visited the Bud Hall in Mutare, Florida, at his house to show him my growing family, for I had been blessed with my second child, a daughter.
He asked me what I was doing in life. I told him I was working for Unilever and had just completed my MBA. Instead of congratulating me for completing my MBA and being a high flyer in my career, he said, do you know Jesus is coming? Please be ready. I will never forget that encounter.
Both died in road traffic accidents. Maybe I should not have given him that nickname, but my joy is that it was premised on Tawanda’s righteousness and loyalty to the Lord.
He was a devout Christian. He was a staunch SDA whom you avoided if you were sinful and compromised in the ways of the Lord. Not that he would chastise you, but just his demeanour preached to you.
Sekuru Tawanda did not miss a second to preach to you. Whenever we were together, I would hide my soft drinks because I would get a lecture on soft drinks not being good for my blood sugar and BP.
He would throw in a Bible verse on healthy eating. I would joke with him and say, mukwasha wenyu (my father), said le's eat and drink because tomorrow we will die.
He wanted to live a long life. He wanted to save the world. He wanted to establish the best wellness centre in Zimbabwe. He did everything by the book. He had time for everyone. He was a moral giant. Whenever he said inzwaka muzukuru (listen here my nephew), you knew a voice of reason and morality was going to pounce on you.
Zim roads now death traps
Unfortunately, he was killed in one of the increasingly common car accidents in Zimbabwe. Our accident rate is among the highest in all of Africa.
Governments throughout Africa have made a concerted effort to reduce the number of deaths that occur in traffic accidents, which are the biggest cause of mortality among African youth.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest road death rate in the world, at 27 per 100 000 people. In Zimbabwe, it is now 34. This is three times higher than the European average of nine and considerably over the world average of 18.
Outdated pirate taxis ought to be outlawed to reduce traffic accidents.
Some of them are owned by police officers who should not run commercial passenger transportation since doing so might cloud their objectivity and judgment when dealing with criminals.
Who will police the police? I have seen cops in uniform pirating. Please tell me that I am mistaken if that is not the ultimate of lawlessness and manifestation of poverty in our police force.
Poor medical staff welfare
In Zimbabwe, the median age of a car is over 20 years old. Ten years is too long; therefore, we need to pass a law capping the age of imported vehicles at five.
New automobiles for physicians and other medical professionals should be a top government priority. In contrast to the new vehicles that politicians, their children, and their concubines drive, a physician cannot even buy a scooter from their salaries. If the government does not get its priorities straight, more tragedies like Tawanda's will occur.
The poverty cycle in Zimbabwe is depressing. Being a law-abiding person who works hard for what they earn is not lucrative. A college education and subsequent employment are not financially rewarding.
To be successful in Zimbabwe, you have to sell your soul to the devil and worship corrupt politicians if you do not want to end up poor. Protecting pedestrians and cyclists — often the poorest and youngest road users — must be a top priority. In addition to the human cost, road deaths may lead to a spiral of economic decline for Zimbabwe. It has an impact on GDP.
It has an impact on parents, who spent thousands on schooling their children only to lose them to death when they need them the most. In Zimbabwe your children are your pension because savings have been eroded due to bad and self-serving economic policies.
Causes of road traffic accidents
Common causes of accidents on Zimbabwe's roads include intoxicated driving, excessive speeding, fatigue, carelessness, a lack of safety equipment, including seatbelts and helmets, and disobedience to traffic laws.
Ageing public transportation fleets, counterfeit permits, lax enforcement of fines, and a lack of stringent technical inspections all play a role.
The state of health delivery system
One of the potential fixes is enhancing medical care for accident victims. Some may claim that if Tawanda had been airlifted to Harare, maybe he would have survived.
Do we have to airlift someone to Harare for RTA treatment? Accident victims need access to care in Mutare. He was in the capital of Manicaland, the province of the infamous diamond rush, yet regular citizens there saw little improvement in their standard of living as a result. All hospitals in a province should be equipped to handle patients who have been seriously injured in traffic accidents. When Tawanda set out to rescue the world of Hauna, he did it while wearing a stethoscope and a dust coat, which is akin to waging World War III with a catapult, despite the fact that modern combat makes extensive use of artificial intelligence.
He believed in God and the established order. He was a firm believer that electing leaders was pointless since they came straight from God.
Every time I tried to reason with him, he would exclaim, "muzukuru it won't matter how you vote nothing will change”.
Measures to be taken range from tightening traffic regulations to restricting the movement of public transportation vehicles.
Second-hand tyre imports should be banned and government must exempt new imported tyres from taxes and duties.
Tawanda's head was injured when the car he hitched a ride with had a burst tyre. Old Mutare Hospital, where he was taken in a Honda Fit, was unable to help him due to the complexity of his condition.
They sent him to Mutare Provincial Hospital, but they were unable to help either. The airstrip in Mutare did not have lights when his relatives had arranged for him to be picked up and flown to Harare that night.
Death is inevitable, I suppose, once its time has come. Those in need will have to find safety in our ancient hospitals.
While sick people still spend the nights in hospitals, medical progress and better education and top-notch equipment have transformed hospitals into places of healing, care and cure. Care, not cure, is where we are at for regular people in Zimbabwe.
People of Zimbabwe, please do not get sick now. If you are admitted to Parirenyatwa, the joke goes, "ukapinda mu Pari haubudi," which translates to "you will die if you are admitted into Pari."
Parirenyatwa hospital being our best hospital then, where does that leave provincial hospitals? Forget about district hospitals.
If our government does not find the political will to improve the transportation system, our roads, and the welfare of public service personnel, particularly for key service providers like doctors, medical facilities, then we will continue to lose our Tawandas.
His mother held him in her arms as he was dying bleeding from the mouth, nose, ears due to the head injuries he sustained. Today she is probably asking herself if all around her did enough to save her child.
Did the health system do enough?
Tomorrow it could be your Tawanda so let us urge our government to sort out the mess in the health sector.
Death is not the end, but only a temporary separation, till we meet on the resurrection day. Go well, Tawanda Nembaware, Mhofu, the medical missionary par excellence.