Visually impaired gospel artist recalls covid-19 challenges

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…grateful to friends and families for assistance

Emmanuel Hove Mhike

For many musicians with disabilities, the lockdown was a perfect storm of mental, physical, and financial disruption. The covid-19 pandemic magnified the problems they face as artists, and the obstacles and negative attitudes that confront them in everyday life.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  (UNESCO) Regional Office for Southern Africa rapid assessment report on the impact of covid-19 on persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe it was discovered that persons with disabilities experienced many challenges brought about or worsened by the covid-19 pandemic and the related lockdown and containment measures.

The assessment stated that “due to lockdown regulations, the livelihoods of persons with disabilities have been negatively affected resulting in other social ills such as anxiety and increase in gender-based violence mainly faced by women and girls with disabilities. The study findings confirmed the hypothesis that the wellbeing of persons with disabilities has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the lockdown measures, as stated by the United Nations Policy Brief -A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19, released in May 2020.”

The report further highlighted that “access to services such as healthcare, education, justice, accessible information was severely affected by the lockdown restrictions put in place to reduce the spreading of the coronavirus. The banning of informal livelihood activities such as vending and begging led to persons with disabilities experiencing acute challenges, as their sources of income have been disrupted. According to the study, income per month for persons with disabilities in the sample shrunk by 50% from ZW 2160.00 (US$43) per month pre-COVID-19 to ZW1080.00 (US$13) per month during the COVID-19 period. This is against a poverty datum line of ZW 17957.00 (US$219) per month for a family of five.”

While everyone tried to balance the demands of food security, health, and well-being during the covid-19 lockdown, society neglected the well-being of those vulnerable groups in society. Bekitemba Takawira, a talented visually impaired gospel Musician from rural areas of Zvishavane who is popularly known as ‘Dr. Beco’ felt lonely and neglected by society to the extent that he nearly ended his life.

Fortunately for him, a team of fellow Zvishavane musicians, radio presenters, and concerned friends noticed their friend’s plight and organized a unique fundraising show that changed his story for the better.

“I was devastated and hopeless. There was no reason to dream or to live. Generous people used to buy my music and organize shows for me, but covid-19 stopped all that. I am generous to friends who came to my assistance through a fundraising program that lifted my soul. Besides giving me income and saving my life, the fundraising initiative gave me a great network of generous friends,” said Takawira.

One of the organisers of the Dr. Beco fundraising show, Goda Moyo who is also a popular Sungura artist in Zvishavane said vulnerable artists deserve attention and care.

“People like Dr. Beco deserve attention, and assistance in times of disaster and pandemics. As popular Media and Arts Practitioners in Zvishavane we used our names to lure people to a show that fundraised for our friend’s general upkeep and welfare. It was successful, phenomenal, and historic,” said Moyo.

Zvishavane Arts and Culture Association (ZACA) Chairman Gemion Chuma hailed the organisers for their great initiative and kind gesture.

“This economic quagmire coupled with covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult for well-wishers to remember the vulnerable members of the community. Hats off to the fundraising team that bailed out Dr. Beco and his family,” said Chuma.

29-year-old Dr. Beco was born visually impaired and he hails from Siboza rural area in Zvishavane. Besides collaboration with the Gospel music godfather Mechanic Manyeruke, Dr. Beco is also well known for the song anenyasha which features another popular musician by the name Great man.

Dr. Beco is working on a new album to be released in December this year. The album will see Dr. Beco collaborating with the Mebo hit maker, Obert Chari on an untitled song the two are already working on.

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