How a chief was locked up at Ingutsheni
Angela Sibanda , Chronicle Reporter
MORE than 100 years ago, Chief Mathew Zvimba was “incarcerated” at Ingutsheni Central Hospital after colonial rulers declared him mentally unstable just to remove him from his community due to his opposition to colonial rule.
The only problem is that Chief Zvimba was not mentally unstable.
Last week, 106 years later, the current Chief Zvimba of Mashonaland West province donated US$500 for a staff luncheon at the hospital as a way of appreciating the work done by health workers in taking care of mental patients at the facility that opened its doors in 1908.
As of last week, the hospital had 639 staff members, 390 male patients and 237 female patients making a total of 627 patients.
Chief Mathew Zvimba, who died in 1952, had been a thorn in the flesh of colonial administrators so they detained him at Ingutsheni.
Historians such as Terrence Ranger and Stanlake Samkange wrote about the late chief’s opposition to colonial rule.
Ingutsheni CEO Dr Nemache Mawere said the late President Canaan Banana also wrote about the late Chief Zvimba.
Dr Mawere described his hospital’s former “patient” as a legend.
“The system considered him troublesome and a threat to peace as he was preaching around ideas that opposed the ruling system during his time.
As a result, he was declared mentally unstable and was sent to the hospital as a way of eliminating him from the community,” said Dr Mawere.
“He was a legend and he never really stayed in the hospital, he was always running away and coming back and his life is documented in a book by Canaan Banana.”
A book, The Mourned One, by Samkange states that Chief Mathew Zvimba was rebellious.
History says that the chief and his sibling went to look for work in the then Salisbury and in 1900, they ended up attending school.
They attended the Methodist-run Waddilove school near Marondera, and he became a teacher in 1905.
In 1907, he was dismissed from his position as a teacher and he rebelled against the Methodist Church and started his own church.
He opposed the colonial rulers and was thrown at Ingutsheni.
A headman from Zvimba, Mr Enerst Chikambi who represented the current Chief Zvimba during the Ingutsheni luncheon last week showed an intimate relationship with the hospital as his mother was also a patient at the institution in 1947.
This time around his mother was suffering from a mental illness.
“My mother was a patient here. She used to come here, stabilise and come back home and even if I was young at the time, I know it saved my mother,” he said.
Mr Chikambi commended the hospital’s nurses for their continued patience.
“I would also like to urge the nurses to continue being patient. Not everyone can stand the insult from patients and still take care of them when they mess up. It needs patience,” said Mr Chikambi.
“Amid the economic storms and the advent of Covid-19, you have remained firm. I thank you for that.”
He also challenged chiefs from Matabeleland and local businesses to support the hospital.
“There might be psychiatric wards in other hospitals but this is the only institution that is designed specifically for mental health and for that reason we should keep supporting it because we are all potential patients,” he said.
In a speech read on her behalf by Bulawayo Provincial administrator Mrs Fungai Nkuziwalela, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Judith Ncube commended the staff’s dedication despite all the challenges the institution faces.
“The staff remained dedicated and reports of 100 percent attendance are the norm even during times of national strikes by nurses at other hospitals.
The staff also face challenges of transport to get to work and sometimes have to walk as there is no direct link of public transport,” she added.
Dr Mawere challenged society to be inspired by the Zvimba family and encouraged people whose relatives have mental challenges to seek medical help.
“It’s not every day that you get someone to open up about their mother having gone through mental disorder. People are shy about this and I believe it’s high time society opens up and encourage each other to get help,” he said.