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Hope for Zim lecturer again, as former mentor in SA raises funds and help for his cancer treatment

Farai Maunganidze and his wife Vimbai on their first visit to a health-care provider to begin the tests needed for an accurate diagnosis.
Farai Maunganidze and his wife Vimbai on their first visit to a health-care provider to begin the tests needed for an accurate diagnosis.
Image: supplied

Two lecturers in SA are raising funds for a former student's cancer treatment in Zimbabwe.

Since launching the cause a week ago, University of Pretoria professors Debby Bonnin and Catherine Burns have raised more than R50,000 and several doctors have come on board to work pro bono to help 41-year-old Farai Maunganidze, who is fighting colon cancer.

He obtained his PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2017 and is now a lecturer at the University of Great Zimbabwe.

“I came to know him well in 2018 when I was appointed as a mentor for his postdoctoral studies at the University of Pretoria. Despite having a wife and three young daughters, he left them behind to travel to Pretoria so that he could improve his qualifications and provide a better future for them. Farai is one of the most upbeat, cheerful, hardworking people I know,” Bonnin told TimesLIVE.

Maunganidze was dealt a blow at the end of last year when a biopsy indicated he had cancer.

He was referred for chemo-radiation therapy but the radiotherapy machine at Parirenyatwa Hospital was broken. His only chance was private health care, which he could not afford.

“Despite the cancer being at an early stage and treatable, the collapse of Zimbabwe’s public health system made it impossible for him to receive treatment. When Farai realised the cost of private health care, he gave up and accepted his fate. Hyperinflation and the collapse of the Zimbabwe economy mean that even though both Farai and his wife are working, they are not able to afford medical care.

“Recently when I found out about his cancer I felt something had to be done. He is a hardworking emerging academic with a great future. He is the father of three daughters, who need him to be there as they grow up. And he is the loving husband of Vimbai, herself a teacher,” Bonnin explained.

She spoke to Burns, who works in the area of medical humanities.

Burns then sent word out to her colleagues and friends to see if anyone knew how to get health care for Maunganidze in Harare.

“A friend of hers Dr Janet Giddy, who is based in Cape Town, having been working on the front line providing care for Covid-19 patients, contacted medical people she knew in Harare. By that evening I had a call from a doctor in Harare offering help to Farai. I gave him contact details and he immediately got in touch with Farai.

“He arranged for Farai to have the necessary diagnostic tests. These were paid for by my friends and colleagues in the sociology department. The Harare doctor also arranged for Farai to see a surgeon and an oncologist pro bono for a consultation. A radiographer based in Harare offered his services at a substantial discount,” Bonnin said.

A crowdfunding initiative was then set up on BackaBuddy and by Friday afternoon, close to R60,000 had been raised.

“After the colostomy, what is still needed is chemo-radiotherapy to reduce the tumour. After that surgery to remove the tumour and then post-op chemotherapy. We can’t stop the treatment halfway through or the cancer will come back, so we need to raise the full amount to give Farai a chance of life,” Bonnin said.

Maunganidze said the support he received was amazing.

He wrote in a Facebook group created to raise awareness for his cause: “A great afternoon to you all. As I write to you, I am working on my computer, something I could not do last month. In August I would sleep, sleep and sleep. I was in pain, I had given up the fight, why, most likely I was fighting it all alone. Coming out is great! Little did I know of this fact. The social support I am getting is amazing. I have moved out of my cell and am enjoying your presence in your absence.

“Coming out is also working some psychological miracles in me. I realise healing has a psychological element. I am stronger now. Accepting and embracing the new reality is the first step in healing. Even before embarking on any treatment, I feel much better now compared to my state in July.”


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