Tichaona Zindoga Acting Editor
A United States institution, Harvard Medical School, has buckled under negative pressure to rescind an honour it bestowed on Zimbabwe’s First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa for her charity work.
On September 21, the institution recognised the First Lady with an honorary ambassadorial role in the Harvard University Global Health Catalyst Programme and agreed to organise a pan-African Global Health Catalyst Summit in Zimbabwe in 2020 “to mobilise effort, resources and collaborative action for high impact global health, with focus on non-communicable diseases like cancer, especially among children.”
The institution also honoured Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, a leading global advocate for cancer control and non-communicable diseases (NCD) and president of the Union for Internal Cancer Control, and the first Arab Muslim to have been elected to lead in such a prestigious global post.
The honoured pair were described as “two outstanding women”.
Regarding the First Lady, Director of Global Health Catalyst at Harvard Medical School, Professor Wilfred Ngwa said: “We accorded her the new role to honour the work she is doing for the people of Zimbabwe, hence we want her to go across Africa.”
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However, opposition from Zimbabwe — where opposition elements excoriated the institution for bestowing the honour — and pressure from a cohort of former American diplomats to Zimbabwe led to the institution melting under pressure.
It has since removed the statement of the event on its website.
Internet story links to the original resources have been disabled in an effort to expunge the record.
However, The Herald can authoritatively reveal that the process of honouring the First Lady and her colleague, were meticulous.
At the meeting where the honour was conferred, the First Lady was accompanied by Secretary for Health and Child Care, Dr Agnes Mahomva; a renowned health expert and member of the Presidential Advisory Committee, Dr Godfrey Sikipa; Assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School Aditi Hazra; and Dr Oscar Nebangwa from the same medical school.
The meeting started with Dr Sikipa giving an account of how the institution had been keen to meet the Zimbabwean First Lady.
We are told that in May 2019 Ambassador Ammon Mutembwa (Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the USA) was invited to participate in the 2019 Global Health Catalyst (GHC) Summit at Harvard Medical School.
The visit of Ambassador Mutembwa was an opportunity to give a talk about Zimbabwe and opportunities for international cooperation and investment including health care. The participation would also provide opportunity to engage with and invite stakeholders including the diaspora and health care industry partners to Zimbabwe.
The anticipated outcomes of the invitation included visit of a Harvard delegation with Constituency for Africa (CFA) to Zimbabwe, enhanced visibility of Zimbabwe, development of a framework for continuous collaboration to support and attract investment to advance health care and development for the people of Zimbabwe.
Dr Sikipa said in Ambassador Mutembwa’s presentation, he touched on the works of the First Lady in the health sector and the medical school expressed interest to enter into collaboration with Zimbabwe.
Our sources say a meeting was then arranged for Harvard officials to meet with Amai, which was then held on September 21.
The specific objectives of the meeting were to discuss and agree on specific areas of collaboration between the institution and the First Lady of Zimbabwe; to discuss on a framework and Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration; and agree on next steps.
The First Lady was then given the floor to narrate what she was doing in Zimbabwe particularly in the health sector and empowerment of marginalized communities.
A documentary showing her works especially with the marginalized communities was played which led to Dr Nebangwa crying and Prof Ngwa was equally touched and said, “this also brought tears to my eyes”.
While Prof Ngwa the Director of Global health was responding to the First Lady’s narration, he then said: “I understand you have a lot of ambassadorship already form your country and from Merck foundation, We are very interested in having you serving as the honorary ambassador of Harvard (everyone in the room clapped hands and the First Lady actually thanked him)…The reason for that is we will have Harvard-First Lady partnership that can become illuminating for whole of Africa and so other First Ladies can emulate you.”