Candid Comment

An ethical dilemma wrought by poverty

By Joram Nyathi

LET’S face it gentlemen. Who would not want to marry a rich woman? What woman would not want to get married to a rich man? Let’s leave the debate about lo

ve for another day.


These thoughts raced through my mind as I mused over the Madonna child adoption saga, debate — scandal or humanitarian gesture? Many people have taken many angles, depending on their view of Madonna herself, not the plight of 13-month old David Banda, his grieving father Yohane or the moral issues involved.


It is the ethical dilemma that comes with poverty that I found most excruciating. Which is what Yohane faced. I have no brief for jealous groups who claim the adoption was a publicity stunt by Madonna. There are thousands of children adopted by Western benefactors from around the developing world every year.


Governments often focus on the ability of the adopting parent to meet the requirements of the law, safeguard the rights of the child and having the means to make the child live a life better than he would have led had he/she been left under conditions where he/she was born.


In the case of David Banda, those opposed to his adoption have raised rights issues, or that Madonna was allowed to bend the law to fast-track her plan. There have been extremists saying Madonna should have “adopted” the whole family. They don’t want to acknowledge that she is funding charities in Malawi already while they watched and did nothing after Yohane lost his other two children and a wife.


I have no doubt that were it not for the publicity stirred by Madonna’s act of charity or Yohane’s decision, many might never have known about Yohane and the poverty that forced him to surrender his child to an orphanage. We have become inured to a life of widespread penury.


Protests about culture, our roots and “robbing our cradle” are foolish humbug by people who watch and laugh at their poor neighbour’s plight and we have thousands of such people in Zimbabwe.


How many of those shedding crocodile tears about African oneness are helping victims of Operation Murambatsvina as we enter the rainy season? How many Aids orphans have they sent to school? Why do we have so many child-headed families when we have a surfeit of pan-African philanthropists all around us?


One Taonezvi Mararike living in the lap of luxury in America pompously parades his string of qualifications. He is called a “speech pathologist, founder, owner and chief executive officer for Total Therapy Services, LLC, a US-based contract rehabilitation company for speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy”.


At the end of his article in the Herald this week, he sermonised about David Banda’s adoption with holy indignation: “No wonder why our human resources are diminishing. From brain drain now it is robbing our cradles.”


So what are you doing in America, Mararike? How many Africans need your services far more than Americans who are already oversupplied?


Mararike appealed to the whole of Africa to be on the lookout for European predators visiting the continent to rob it of future specialists the way colonisers ravished the continent. You would think finally Africa had come of age if you didn’t live in these shores to see for yourself the grinding poverty and black-on-black human cruelty going on everyday.


These are the same people who watched and did nothing while 20 000 innocent villagers were butchered in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the early 1980s as if those people did not have the potential to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, presidents or ministers.


These are the same people who watched and did nothing when over 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in 100 days of a satanic orgy in Rwanda in 1994. These are the same people who everyday talk about human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan that they view through Western camera lenses but will not dare alert the African Union to what is happening in Darfur, in Epworth or the plight of women and children dumped at Hopley Farm outside Harare.


Nobody talks of African oneness when they see the voiceless poor who can’t even afford to give their dead a decent burial. Did I read in the Herald this week that Zimbabwe’s child mortality rate has shot up while we posture about Banda being taught British culture?


I am not concerned about what Madonna did as much as the cause — African poverty that I largely blame on our own failure to manage our human and natural resources and distribute them equitably.


As a continent Africa is very rich in resources but poor in leadership. That is what has robbed us of our dignity and chased our children away. For an African man, no matter however improvident, to have to surrender his child to a charity is the ultimate indignity. That is why ordinarily we don’t put our aged parents in old people’s homes.


Yohane Banda reached a point of desperation and none of his countrymen heard his wailing in the wilderness, not even his relatives.


Finally a foreigner, a woman for that, has robbed him of his manhood and the whole of Malawi wants to be adopted by Madonna. Zimbabwe could be next. The issue is not about strong child adoption laws, it is about making them unnecessary.