SHAMVA — Alexio Tembo (32) is a broken man. Containing his emotions as he relates an accidental contact with a high voltage electricity current that nearly cost him his life early last year is a battle that is often lost.
Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi
The electric shock not only broke his body, but has also paralysed his spirit, interfering with his will to hold on to life. Now he often finds himself contemplating taking his own life. But should he see through this plan, the fate of his four children — aged between 4 and 13 — is anyone’s guess.
On September 12, he packed the measly group of these obviously neglected kids into his old model Nissan Sunny and drove to Bindura, about 5km away from his home at Arundel Farm, with the intention of dumping the kids there before committing suicide.
But does he not care that history would judge him harshly for abandoning his children in such a callous manner?
“Look, do I have a choice?” He gazes into the distance, tears clouding his eyes as his voice trails off. He is silent for a long moment.
“My wife ran away and I am suffering. I don’t have anything anymore. I don’t even have the means to look after these children.”
Had his wife stayed after the electrocution, perhaps Tembo’s circumstances, and those of his children, would have been better. But had the woman who had vowed to stick with him through thick and thin stayed, it would have been a different case altogether. Tembo and his kids are in obvious need of care.
Tembo still recalls the events of that horror afternoon. Two electricity poles close to his home, where he runs a hideout made up of a shop and grinding mill, fell to the ground and they phoned Zesa. When the power utility’s engineers arrived, they requested for some additional manpower and 10 men, including Tembo, offered to help.
“We were holding the electric cable in our hands since there was no power. Zesa then switched on Shamva thinking they were switching on Bindura, which had no power at that moment, and that’s how disaster struck,” he said.
All 10 men were injured in that flick of a moment, three of them — including Tembo — seriously. A Zesa vehicle that was brought to take them to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare broke down along the way and they were then jam-packed into a commuter omnibus heading for the capital.
They were admitted at the hospital for four months, during which Tembo’s business collapsed, leaving him no more than a pauper. Following the tragedy, he helplessly witnessed his otherwise solid life collapsing around him.
“I would go to Harare everyday to get my wounds dressed, but then I have not been dressed for three months and the wound is now rotting. The doctor said he could not attend to me anymore because Zesa has not been paying him for his services,” he said.
He was forced to sell his truck to off-set some debts and he lost his stand in Bindura which was pounced upon by “vultures” while he was still in hospital. To make matters worse, Zesa at one time switched off his “business” for non-payment of bills. He was forced to raise $400, with the help of a friend, before he was switched on.
His right hand and left leg are no longer functional and he now walks with a limp.
“This is so wrong,” he wept. “I have never encountered such evil in all my life.”
Another victim of the disaster, Prince Chinembiri, whose hand had to be amputated, said his life was shattered following the accident. He used to work as a driver.
“When the matter went to court here in Bindura, Zesa accepted responsibility and pledged to compensate us, but up to now we have not yet received anything. Even the hospital bills are yet to be fully settled,” he said.
He said Zesa had asked them to write the amounts of monetary compensation and he indicated he wanted $110 000, but the insurance company they were referred to said it was not in a position to compensate them.
“Up to now we haven’t received anything and it seems the issue of compensation is now problematic. My brother, who was also a victim, came to my rescue and gave me money to start a shop because I can’t drive anymore,” he said.
“Zesa should just give me my hand back if they don’t want to pay me.”
Efforts to get comment from Zesa spokesperson Fullard Gwasira were fruitless.
He asked for questions in writing, but he had not responded by the time of going to print.