Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
ZIMBABWE has been hard hit by an acute shortage of forensic pathologists, a development that has stalled investigations in a number of serious murder, robbery and other related cases that require post-mortem and other special forensic reports.
In the interim, one local doctor who specialised in histopathology is assisting the nation in handling all such cases countrywide, confirming a crisis which calls for urgent action.
The doctor has an added qualification in forensic pathology.
He is based at Harare Central Hospital and all other provinces rely on him.
The situation was exacerbated by the recent departure of three Cuban pathologists who have been rendering the special service.
The trio left Zimbabwe for Cuba in the first quarter of 2019, with the last one having departed end of March.
Police chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi bemoaned the crisis saying action must be urgently taken to oil the wheels of justice.
Asst Comm Nyathi said at least 10 bodies are on the forensic pathologist’s waiting list as the only available specialist was being overwhelmed by work.
“Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has at least 10 outstanding pathological reports and the investigations in respect of those cases are moving at a snail’s pace.
“We understand the delay is due to the huge volumes of work faced by the available forensic pathologists,” he said.
Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo said he will engage the central bank for foreign currency to bring more pathologists from Cuba and to cater for their needs.
“We have already liaised with Cuba and some pathologists are prepared to assist us here.
“I am going to engage the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for financial assistance to facilitate the travel and other requirements of the experts,” said Dr Moyo.
The Herald understands Cuban pathologists want to be paid in foreign currency and such arrangements have to be made in advance to ensure their safe stay in the country.
Asst Comm Nyathi hailed the Ministry of Health and Child Care for the special service which helps in police investigations.
“We appreciate what the ministry has been doing, providing experts to do post-mortem and compile forensic reports to ensure the success of our investigations.
“It helps us to gather the much needed evidence for our investigations and prosecution of criminal cases,” he said.
The Director of Pathology in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Maxwell Hove, said the situation was desperate and Government should quickly come up with a solution.
“We have a serious problem. We have been relying on Cuban pathologists, but the three who have been assisting us, have since gone back to their country.
“We only have one pathologist for now, our own doctor that we have to send to KwaZulu-Natal for training.
“He is based at Harare Hospital. On Monday and Fridays, he will be at Harare Hospital.
“On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he will be at Parirenyatwa Hospital. When the Cubans were still here, they would go to Chitungwiza on Wednesdays,” said Dr Hove.
He added: “One person cannot manage to do all that. We get so many cases of murder from the police and the only pathologist that we have is failing to cope.
“We need more pathologists from Cuba to assist us.”
Dr Hove said Zimbabwe has no capacity to train forensic pathologists.
Most medical practitioners, Dr Hove said, were afraid to testify in court, hence shying away from specialising in pathology.
“We have an adversarial legal system. It is adversarial in the sense that if an ordinary medical practitioner does a post-mortem and goes to court, he or she gets grilled because the defence lawyer simply wants to clear the suspect.
“So most practitioners have shied away from pathology because of that,” he said.