A GROUP of neatly-dressed young girls takes to the stage and mesmerises the big gathering at All Soul’s Mission in Mutoko with their dancing skills that resonate with the traditional Roman Catholic Church drumbeat.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
It is clear that it is a day of celebration, judging by the joy, décor and the audience gracing the event at the Catholic-run institution in the heart of the poverty-stricken Mutoko district.
Last Saturday, scores of villagers, Catholics and dignitaries graced the event meant to commemorate the life of the late Luisa Guidotti, an Italian medical doctor, who contributed much during her life before she was killed by the Rhodesian forces at the peak of the liberation struggle.
Guidotti offered medical assistance to freedom fighters, but her kindness and generosity were a thorn in the flesh to the Rhodesian forces, who shot her at Lot business centre, as she was coming from Nyadire Mission in a Red Cross vehicle after having gone to operate on a pregnant woman on July 6, 1979.
More than three decades later, villagers in Mutoko still remember her as “a gift from God”.
Fidelis Tsabora (67) of Gadzai village, whose homestead is situated a stone’s throw away from All Soul’s Mission Hospital, said Guidotti was a heroine, who should be remembered for her good work.
“She was a gift to the people of Mutoko and around because she was kind to every human being,” he said.
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“A number of guerillas were treated by her. It was a risky exercise, but she was brave enough to receive and treat them free of charge.”
Tsabora said Guidotti was one of the medical doctors who initiated a programme of taking patients requiring heart surgery to Italy.
“I’m surprised when I hear people seeking money for heart surgeries,” he said dramatically.
“They should know that at All Soul’s Mission, people are taken to Italy for heart surgeries and this was initiated by the likes of Guidotti.”
As a way of honouring her, All Soul’s Mission Hospital had its name changed to Luisa Guidotti Hospital in 1983.
Speaking at the commemorations, Mutoko East legislator, Ricky Mawere-Mubvumbi, a Catholic, said Guidotti’s death dealt a heavy blow to the less privileged in Mutoko.
“Luisa was an asset to the local community,” he said.
“The effects of her departure were felt by the villagers.
“In short, the late medical practitioner was a servant of the people as seen in what she displayed. She was a shining example.
“As a Catholic, I can only say working for the less privileged is an avenue to heaven.”
Guidotti is on the road to sainthood, according to the Catholic pantheon.
In November last year, the Archbishop of Modena, Antonio Lanfranchi, announced that the diocesan phase of the beatification process had been completed.
In his sermon during the commemoration, senior priest, Liberty Machivenyika urged the gathering to emulate Guidotti’s works.
“Your works and conduct here on earth will determine what people will say when you are gone,” he said.
“People will always remember your name because of how you related with them while here on earth.”
Guidotti was born in Parma, on May 17, 1932, before moving to Modena with her family after her mother’s death.
After high school, she studied medicine.
In 1960, she asked to be part of the Association of Women Doctor Missionaries and in August 1966, she came to the then Southern Rhodesia to work at the Paul VI Hospital in Chirundu.
Due to circumstances beyond her control, she was forced to return to Italy for a few months before returning to Southern Rhodesia, but this time, to Regina Coeli Mission Hospital in Nyanga before moving to the then All Soul’s Mission in Mutoko.
On July 6, 1979 while accompanying a pregnant woman at risk, to Nyadiri Mission Hospital, her car was hit by a barrage of bullets.
She was taken to a government hospital in Mutoko, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
On October 23, 1988 at the request of the Archbishop of Modena, her remains were transferred to the Cathedral of Modena, but she has remained Mutoko’s own heroine, as villagers still have fresh memories of her contribution in the liberation struggle, as well as to the community.