Bazezuru defy govt in fight against Bilharzia – Vow to prevent immunisation of children
A bitter row over immunisation of children between religious sect members popularly known as Bazezuru and government has threatened to rear its ugly head once again.
Francistown District Health Management Team (DHMT) has set the stage for a fresh clash with Bazezuru with a proposal to test all school children as the municipality embarks on a spirited battle against bilharzia.
The outbreak of the chronic disease which is caused by a parasite that can remain in the body for many years and cause damage to organs such as the bladder, kidneys and liver was discovered early May but only confirmed at the middle of last month.
A blanket proposal to test all children however has a potential of igniting the long-standing rivalry between Bazezuru and health officials as the former don’t subscribe to modern medical health care.
“We have decided to test all the children because children like swimming in ponds dotted along Tati River. For us to deal with the disease, we should test and treat all,” DHMT coordinator, Gobezie Solomon told Francistown councillors recently.
Contacted for a comment, the Bazezuru tribal leader based at Mmandunyane village, Kgosi Edward Hamadziripi said his people would not allow health officials to vaccinate their children because their God is the greatest and they trusted Him with all health matters.
“Our God always protects Bazezuru from all calamities. And there is no way a not so dangerous disease like bilharzia would cause any harm to our children,” said Hamadziripi in a telephone interview with The Voice.
It was not the first time that Bazezuru clashed with govt over immunisation of children.
In 2013, the stubborn sect ignored a Public Health Bill that required them to immunise their children and defied a government directive that compelled them to comply.
To avoid immunisation, some Bazezuru temporarily took their children to Zimbabwe and only brought them back when the exercise was over.
Last year, the tribal leader, Hamadziripi shocked health officials when he cynically asked, “If the medicine is so good, why is there a mortuary at Nyangabgwe hospital?”
Hamadziripi is adamant that immunisation is against the religion and culture of Bazezuru, which he argued that government must respect.
When contacted for a comment following the declaration by Hamadziripi that Bazezuru children won’t be vaccinated, Solomon said health officials were aware of the Bazezuru tendency of giving them a hard time during vaccination exercises.
He promised to do everything within his power to ensure that all the children are tested and vaccinated if found to be carrying the bilharzia parasite.
“If the worst comes to the worst, we will enlist the help of law enforcement agencies like the police and evoke the
Public Health Bill, which, calls for penalties for parents who fail to take their kids for immunisation in order to force Bazezuru to comply.” he said.
The bill states that any parent who fails to present his or her child for immunisation would be liable to a fine not exceeding P6000 or imprisonment of a term not exceeding 12 months.