Zororo Makamba

Zororo Makamba became Zimbabwe’s first coronavirus death on Monday 23 March.

‘You will die at hospital’, says family after death of Zim media personality

Zimbabweans have begun questioning the state of the country’s readiness to deal with the coronavirus following the death of Zororo Makamba.

Zororo Makamba

Zororo Makamba became Zimbabwe’s first coronavirus death on Monday 23 March.

The family of prominent Zimbabwean broadcaster Zororo Makamba has issued a terse statement to media following his passing due to COVID-19 at a Harare hospital on Monday 23 March. 

The 30-year-old Makamba had visited New York where he spent three weeks. Upon his return to the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, Makamba started exhibiting cold symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. 

According to his brother Tawanda, who has been appointed the family spokesperson, Makamba’s condition deteriorated within a week of his return from the United States (US) and he was hospitalised at Wilkins Hospital on 21 March. 

Possibly infecting hundreds

Zororo was the son of James Makamba, a telecoms tycoon and Zanu-PF politician who enjoys a close relationship with the top tier of the ruling party, including Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa. 

The Herald has since published a graphic of places Makamba visited, possibly infecting hundreds of people. His family and fiancee have gone into quarantine in line with government regulations.  


Death was ‘preventable’

According to Tawanda, Zororo’s death was preventable as he had seen a doctor upon arriving from his New York trip. The physician had failed to diagnose the coronavirus, instead prescribing medication for flu. It was only when he developed a fever that his doctor recommended that he be admitted to hospital. 

According to Tawanda, his brother’s condition deteriorated further and there was a delay in preparing a room for him to stay in at Wilkins Hospital, which is Harare’s only isolation facility. This led to the Makamba family keeping him at home and providing him with oxygen to help breathe.  

“His GPA phoned around and an ambulance came home to deliver the oxygen and then we got the positive results for coronavirus at about 01:30 or 02:00 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 him bring immediately and we were told that the hospital was not ready to receive coronavirus patients. So, in the morning we waited and waited and they were still not ready to admit him. He ended up being admitted around 10:00 and 11:00,” said Tawanda. 

Harare hospital ill prepared for coronavirus

What followed was a nightmare for the Makamba family as they found Wilkins Hospital ill prepared to handle the sensitivity of Zorora’s case. The family states that:

  • Wilkins Hospital in Harare is not ready to receive patients;
  • There was no ventilator, oxygen and medication to treat Makamba; 
  • The hospital was out of supplies to treat Makamba’s respiratory condition;
  • Nurses and doctors have no protective gear; 
  • The family was given the runaround in moving Zororo to Health Point Clinic;
  • Health Minister Obadiah Moyo refused for Zororo to be treated elsewhere and Mnagagwa and his wife promised that they would intervene; 
  • Borrowdale trauma centre was suggested as an alternative for Zorora but it is also not equipped and ready to handle COVID-19 patients; 
  • There is no water at Wilkins Hospital; and
  • There is a breakdown in communication and the government and doctors are not readily available. 

The Makamba family also made the shocking claim that the owner of the Borrowdale Trauma Centre said he would only help on the condition that they coughed up $120 000 (about R2.1m) for a ventilator and monitors and donate these to Wilkins Hospital after Zororo’s recovery. 

‘Alone and scared’

“At the end before he died, he kept telling us that he was alone and scared and the staff was 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…So if you come here to be treated for corona there is absolutely no treatment you will get, you will die,” said Tawanda. 

Zimbabweans have begun questioning the state of the country’s preparedness to deal with the virus.

Mayor says hospital ‘ready to handle COVID-19’

Speaking to Zimbabwean news website Health Times, Harare mayor Herbert Gomba said Wilkins Hospital was ready to handle COVID-19 patients. 

“Residents must know we have measures to mitigate the effects of the corona pandemic, recruited 60 environmental officers on contract, made $10 million ready for use, have testing kits, protective clothes and our staff to work long hours, ” said Gomba.