Sindiso Mhlophe and Fungi Kwaramba
ZIMBABWE yesterday recorded its first known death from the lethal coronavirus — amid a continuing lack of public vigilance regarding the disease, and fresh doubts about the country’s capacity to deal with the global pandemic, the Daily News reports.
This comes as it was confirmed yesterday that prominent broadcaster Zororo Makamba, 30, pictured — the youngest son of business magnate James Makamba — had succumbed to the disease.
Under pressure Health minister Obadiah Moyo announced the passing away of Makamba after receiving equipment from telecommunication companies to fight the novel coronavirus.
“As you may be aware that we had recorded two cases of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe, today Wilkins isolation centre recorded a death of one of our Covid-19 cases.
“His parents have given us permission to state his name and our deepest condolences go to the Makamba family on the loss of their son Zororo Makamba.
“Zororo passed away around midday today (yesterday) … according to his doctors who were looking after him, he had other concurrent serious medical conditions which made him vulnerable,” Moyo said.
Speaking to the Daily News later, Zororo’s distraught family narrated their pain, disappointment and how Wilkins Hospital was ill-prepared for coronavirus — leading to them feeling “betrayed” by authorities.
Family spokesperson Tawanda Makamba also revealed that Zororo had returned from New York, the United States of America, where he was for 10 days, with a mild cold.
His initial test by his doctor for coronavirus symptoms suggested that he did not have the disease. “On Friday last week, he started developing a fever and his doctor recommended that he had to be admitted. This is because Zororo had a tumour removed from just under his left lung in November last year, and he was under an 18-month recovery time-frame. “His immune system was thus already compromised. So, the doctor was keen that he gets into hospital to receive proper medication and care,” Tawanda said.
After there had been delays in testing his samples at Wilkins, the family took Zororo home as he needed oxygen. “His GP (General Practitioner) phoned around and an ambulance delivered the oxygen and soon after we got the positive results for coronavirus at about 2am the following day.
“They told us that now that they had confirmed that he had the virus, he had to be taken to the Wilkins Hospital for treatment. We then inquired if we could bring him immediately and we were told that the hospital was not ready to receive coronavirus patients,” Tawanda said.
“So, later that morning we waited and waited and they were still not ready to admit him. He ended up being admitted at around 10am or 11am.
“His doctor made it clear that he had to be on a ventilator because he could not breathe. However, when we got to Wilkins Hospital, there was no ventilator, no medication and even the oxygen would run out and they had to get it from the City of Harare,” Tawanda added.
“After that we ran around to find a ventilator for him and we managed to get a portable ventilator from a family friend who had a relative who used the ventilator before he died,” he said further.
Tawanda also said the hospital did not have any medication to help Zororo to breathe — medicines that the family had to source urgently from South Africa.
“We then brought the ventilator on Sunday by 2pm and when we got here (Wilkins), because the portable ventilator had an American plug, they told us to get an adapter because they only had round sockets at the hospital.
“I then rushed to buy an adapter and came back and they never used it, and when I asked why, they said they had no plugs in his room.
“I told them that I had an extension cord and pleaded with them to use the cord, but they refused to use it,” Tawanda added.
Attempts were then made to take Zororo to Health Point Clinic, where he was operated on in November, but the family was stopped from doing so.
“We then appealed to minister Moyo that since Wilkins was not prepared could we take him to Health Point but he refused. We were puzzled and wondered how he could say that Zororo should be treated at Wilkins when they didn’t even have plugs in his room to connect the ventilator.
“He promised us all sorts of things that this morning (yesterday) there would be a ventilator and equipment, but nothing has materialised,” Tawanda said.
“If you go visit Wilkins you will see for yourself that they are not prepared to handle cases like this. The minister at some point also suggested that we could take Zororo to a trauma centre in Borrowdale.
“But when it was time for us to go to Borrowdale Trauma Centre, they stopped us,” Tawanda said further.
“Instead, they got the owner of Borrowdale Trauma Centre to call me and he told me that he could come and set up an ICU at Wilkins for Zororo, complete with a ventilator and monitors, but he said that we would have to pay US$120 000 for the equipment.
“He added that once Zororo finished using the equipment and recovered, we would have to donate the equipment to Wilkins Hospital.
“So, basically the hospital wanted us to buy the equipment for them. We don’t have US$120 000 and it is not our responsibility to buy equipment for the government,” Tawanda added.
“On top of that, and remember this was a critical patient, nurses would only visit him after two hours because they were afraid of handling his situation. We were having to phone from home, calling the nurse station to tell them that Zororo was in distress and that his oxygen was finished because they were not going to check on him.
“It even got to a point where they were telling us that we were bothering them, but Zororo was struggling in there,” the emotional Tawanda also said.
“The minister lied to us on many occasions, including that they were going to bring equipment and doctors, but nothing ever materialised.
“We reached out to President Mnangagwa and the First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa, who promised us that Zororo could be transferred to Beatrice and that there was a room for him. But nothing came out of that. We even appealed to authorities saying that as they had failed to help Zororo, they should allow us to take him home and treat him ourselves because what he needed was oxygen,” Tawanda said.
“At the end, before he died, Zororo kept telling us that he was alone and scared and that the staff were refusing to help him to a point where he got up and tried to walk out and they were trying to restrain him.
“I want people to know that the government is lying. Remember at some point I spoke to the president and he was saying that the report he had received about Wilkins from the Health minister was that there is equipment and medicine. However, right now they don’t even have water at Wilkins. The doctor we were in contact with here at Wilkins would turn off his phone, yet he was the critical contact person,” Tawanda added.
He also lamented the fact that since Zororo’s death, they had not been allowed to view his body, and neither did they know the way forward.
“This is such a heart-breaking experience for us and it goes to show the lack of seriousness our government has in dealing with the coronavirus,” Tawanda said further.
Meanwhile, a local bank that Zororo visited last week announced yesterday that it had asked four of its officials who met him to go into isolation.