By Dumisani Gumpo
WHILE very few would say they know him, the passing away of my childhood friend Dick Sipepa Nkomo is indeed something worth bringing on to the public domain.
Last week I was telephoned by my sister from home (Zimbabwe) early in the morning on Saturday and she said Dick was no more. I grew up with, played with him, he was always by my side, he knew all my childhood secrets and I knew all his as well. The thought of him lifeless is incomprehensible.
I was utterly shocked. I could not believe it. I knew Dick as a highly religious and a devout Christian. Dick was not at all a philanderer. He was very straight forward and preached what he practiced. There was no alcohol abuse or any illicit activity that suggested he was involved with. What could have taken Dick’s life? I wondered. I was busy and had no much credit on my phone, so when I was less busy I topped up my mobile and rung my sister back to find out what the cause of his death was.
I started asking her if she knew what had killed such an innocent God fearing man. She narrated the story running towards his death. I have to be honest I was not surprised because what she told me was very possible.
Dick was a well known preacher man in the Bulawayo area of Tshabalala where he lived. He had gone to a camp meeting which is what they do every year at their church to meet up and share the word of God in a group. Different preachers from different branches share with other Christian aficionados the word of the Lord for people to understand it in the different perspectives it usually demands.
My sister tells me the incredibly fit looking Pastor Dick Sipepa was one of the last preachers to share the word at that meeting. It was on a Thursday and on Friday morning everyone took their belongings and went their ways, with Dick going back to Bulawayo.
On arrival, I’m told Dick complained of a headache and as the day progressed the headache became more severe and caused him to collapse. An ambulance was called and Dick taken to hospital, probably Mpilo. I am sad to say Dick never lived long after that. Doctors said his arteries had ruptured because his blood pressure had sky rocketed. He never made it again, today he is buried with people who died of all sort of diseases.
The memory of Miriam Makeba who died on stage in Italy comes back and the recently retired Fabrice Muamba who missed death by a whisker while playing Bolton against Tottenham Hotspurs can never be forgotten. Samuel Okwaraji of Nigeria who died on the pitch while playing Angola in 1989 and his autopsy showed blood pressure as the cause. There are over a hundred known footballers who succumbed to this evil disease and thousands others who are unknown including a girl who collapsed while making a testimony in church in London.
Coming back to Dick Sipepa’s death what pained me even more is that as Zimbabwe International Performers Alliance we are preparing for a festival which many people say they will travel distances to come and experience. We are showcasing local talent and having it under the theme HYPERTENSION NEEDS YOUR ATTENTION, with the aim of raising awareness about heart disease that is claiming a lot of lives amongst our people. I used to hear people collapsing and dying instantly and many subscribed to the belief that they were ‘beaten up by goblins’.
We are living in the 21st century and the truth is, it is not the first time to hear the word High Blood pressure. You and me have heard it a million times but the question is: What actions are you taking. Purporting people die of goblins in the western world will call for the goblins themselves to question your state of mind. On the other hand they will be happy to add another soul in their name.
When I heard that Dick had died of high blood pressure I pointed a finger at myself. I knew about it and had not shared this with him. I am part of ZIPA’s Management Committee that is preparing for the festival that is focussing on high blood pressure and happening a day before World Heart Day, 30th September. Why did I let my friend down? How many people do you know that are suffering from heart disease? The probable answer is No one.
My friends, the symptom of heart disease is death as I have related above. Many of our Zimbabwean expatriates are in the health industry and the majority are trained nurses, pharmacists and doctors. Are we sharing enough information with our loved ones? Or we are just doing it for money at work? Where are you placing yourself as a health practitioner? My friend is gone forever and I will never share a joke with him. Dick was probably going to convert many a soul into knowing God. He is no more.
Do not point a finger at someone when a thing of this magnitude happens. Remember when you do point one at someone, three fingers are pointing at you. What are you and me doing to get more people to know about this epidemic, this silent killer and a shenanigan that is taking seemingly healthy lives?
If you live in the United Kingdom and want to know more about heart disease especially hypertension, join us on 29th September 2012 in Canterbury where entertainment will be fused with information and sharing about this disease, the address is Simon Langton Boys Grammar School, CT4 7AS. These are beautiful settings away from the noisy cities. It’s at the outskirts of Canterbury with a beautiful rural scenery. Surely the entertainment will be unmatched with specially cooked buffet by a trained chef. A very good family outing, all for FREE.
This article is in remembrance of my late friend Dick Sipepa Nkomo who recently died of hypertension.