Looking Back: First Lady Amai Sally Mugabe dies
The Herald, January 27, 1992
THE First Lady, Amai Sally Mugabe has died. She died at Parirenyatwa Hospital at 7:20am after a long illness.
She was 60-years-old.
The shocking news was announced by Vice President Nkomo shortly before mid-day. Amai, as she was affectionately known, had been ill for a number of years with a kidney ailment.
In announcing the news, Cde Nkomo said: “it is with a heavy heart and sense of grievous loss that, on behalf of Government, I announce to the nation the death of our First Lady, Sally Mugabe, this morning of the 27th of January, 1992 at Parirenyatwa Hospital here in Harare.”
Cde Nkomo said: “She showed tremendous resilience during the entire period of her illness, carrying out her duties in the party and the many charitable organisations in whose work she took such a leading and inspirational role.
“Among these, and most prominently, was the Child Survival and Development Foundation which she founded and led with such selfless dedication and untiring energy.
“Even when her condition was such that she should have been resting, she would be found in the forefront of the laudable efforts to uplift the poor, and destitute in our society, particularly children.”
All these people and organisations and, “indeed the entire nation, are indebted to her for her heroic efforts and exemplary commitment.”
“On behalf of Government and all our people, I wish to extend to His Excellency, the President, Cde RG Mugabe, and the entire Mugabe family, our deepest condolences at their time of sorrow and anguish,” Vice President Nkomo said.
Over the years, Amai had to undergo kidney dialysis regularly. As her condition deteriorated, she was on the machine at least once a week.
She even went as far as Europe for treatment. Eventually, she had an operation in Zimbabwe where she continued with her treatment. She had been hospitalised for some time and was in Parirenyatwa Hospital.
President Mugabe, her husband for almost 31 years, was at her bedside at the time of her death.
Touched by the plight of scores of people who suffer from kidney problems like herself, Amai pioneered the formation of the Kidney Fund Association and was made patron. Under this fund, Amai managed to raise thousands of dollars locally and abroad that benefited many Zimbabweans, some of whom could not afford the treatment.
In 1990, 440 people whose kidneys had failed, were put under the haemo-dialysis machine costing well over $19 million. It costs close to $100 000 a year to put a patient on the machine. Most of the patients cannot afford, but thanks to the generosity of the ZKFA, their lives have been made easier.
Amai as the patron, travelled far and wide campaigning for the ZKFA and through her efforts and contacts, she managed to buy more machines for the kidney ward at Parirenyatwa Hospital where treatment was being done. Even against the wishes of her doctors, Amai still went through her demanding roles with vigour helping the needy.
At times at public functions, she would be with an ambulance, equipped with the dialysis machine at the ready while she performed her duties. Of late, she cut a forlorn figure at state occasions as she would be seen sitting in a chair.
As a mother to the nation, Amai (Sally) Mugabe led by example. She was steadfast in her fight for democracy, equal rights for all people and betterment of women and children and the less privileged.
Amai Sally Mugabe was a patron of a number of charitable organisations and it was through her efforts that the Mutemwa Leprosy Colony in Mutoko got respect and support it now enjoys.
As a mother, touched by the many incidences of baby dumping in 1983, Cde Sally told the young mothers that life did not end by being pregnant or married.
“To have a man is not a passport to life, having an educational certificate is what every mother and child should aspire for.”
Funeral arrangements for Amai Mugabe are still being worked out and details will be released later.
Amai’s body was taken from Parirenyatwa Hospital in the morning to Zimbabwe House briefly before being transferred to Mashfords in the afternoon. Scores of people are gathered at Zimbabwe House this afternoon.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
The late First Lady and heroine Sarah “Sally” Francesca Mugabe was a Ghanaian who like other heroines interred at the National Heroes Acre took Zimbabwe’s war of liberation very seriously, as they fought the enemy, alongside their husbands.
Cde Sally Mugabe was the first female heroine to be interred at the national shrine. Thereafter, the late wives of presidium members – Cdes Joanna Nkomo, Moudy Muzenda, Mary Msika, Victoria Chitepo, Ruth Chinamano, Julia Tukai Zvobgo and others followed suit.
Her work with the disadvantaged, put Mutemwa Leprosy colony on the international map. The Mutemwa mountain has become a place of pilgrimage by Christians, following the miracles of John Bradburne who gave his all, for the lepers’ cause.
The major hospital that serves patients from high density areas and other referral centres was renamed Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (from Harare Central Hospital), in her honour.