Prof Solwayo Ngwenya – The Story of an Unheralded Covid Warrior

By Mhlomuli Ncube

Names are believed to spell doom or fortunes in many families. By nature Africans believe in the prophetic manifestations hence when christening one, there is careful consideration. Out of incidents or wishes, newly born children are assigned certain names.

A name that has been almost on every facet of the media is that of Mpilo Hospital Clinical Director Professor Solwayo Ngwenya. “Solwayo,” is synymous with “suspect,” one who is always on the butt end of taking all the blame. However far from analysing names which is not the gist of this discussion Prof Ngwenya has been a very loud voice advocating for behavior change in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

His has been a struggle of day to day conduct and frightening prophecies dismissed ad doom at one time when the pandemic was just beginning. “This is going to get worse. We haven’t seen anything yet,” he told me almost a year ago. As the pandemic plays out his voice has grown louder day by day. The tone is almost one of anger albeit a justified one as figures continue rising. “Take home message is: do NOT get infected at all costs!! The virus is blisteringly, and efficiently deadlier. The warning is SO CLEAR! ” is one of his utterances which am convinced was issued with a heavy heart. Later on it would be complimented by another more blistering one. “The virus returned in a more devastating second wave, look at the falling recovery rates!! We are tottering on the brink; mass deaths!!!”

For those with ears, hearing has not been easy. It has even taken government guidelines enforced with a bit of push emphasis to ensure adherence. How humanity will not appreciate that this is all for the good of their own preservation rather than punitive measures is a debate for another day.

The bigger issue is that Solwayo, the man whose name is linked to being a suspect has grown his voice even louder. Not to be deterred or intimated he sums it all up perfectly to me when I ask about his resolve to keep on repeating the same message. “It’s good for the community to get advice from a local person.” A local person indeed  and one qualified in all pathological matters as an authoritative voice, Prof Ngwenya is not giving up. If repeating the same message over and over is the only option left, this unheralded covid fighter does not seem to be giving fatigue indicators yet. His conviction is to see people live beyond the ravaging pandemic.

Summing up the story of his fight Prof Ngwenya wrote in one of his emotional modes , ” Since March how many warnings upon warnings? This virus is being allowed to spread and it will reach the killing levels seen by the survivors of the 1918 flu. I can only see one result virus vs humans. It will be too late soon.”

Where behavior change has not been as urgent as he recommended, one can only conclude that paying heed to advice is not easy to comprehend for many. But the price has been even higher. For many, it has ended in tears and the good physician has however not been silenced. In the silence of the infections and deaths, his voice has grown even louder.

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