Photo @hammond_robin earlier this year, as part of my continued work documenting mental health issues around the world, i went to south africa to document the life esidimeni tragedy. most of you won’t know what that is. and that’s the very reason why i went - the lives of people with mental health conditions receive little attention. and as you will see from this story we’re sharing on @onedayinmyworld (link in profile) that lack of attention - lack of value we place on their lives - can lead to terrible neglect, horrendous abuse, agonising death.
it has come to be known as the worst human rights scandal to hit democratic south africa. in an attempt to save money, 1,700 people with mental illness and intellectual disability were moved from the care facility life esidimeni into unlicensed care homes. within two years, 144 people - nearly one in 10 - died. causes of death included starvation, dehydration, and cold. relatives were awarded damages, but for this horrendous case of mass neglect, no one has faced criminal charges. money is not enough. the relatives want justice.
#inmyworld is designed to expose the challenges faced by people living with #mentalhealth issues and give them the chance to be seen, heard and valued. @witness_change is a nonprofit that aims to improve life for excluded groups by amplifying their stories. to see more or to share your own mental health story please follow @onedayinmyworld
Photo @hammond_robin. my notes from zimbabwe in 2012 in relation to this photo: in june 2008 five mdc party workers were preparing for the presidential run off. three armed soldiers came into their office, and shot two of the workers at point blank range and told the rest to lie on the ground. they emptied a 25 litre container of petrol onto them, left the building, locked the door, lit a candle and threw it inside. all three survivors managed to escape when one of them kicked down the door. they suffered severe burns. “the whole room was a blaze of fire, we were in pain and agony…. we were thinking too much about our kids, and our families, and we were praying for that moment to god, may god, can you assist us…”
Photo @hammond_robin. my notes from zimbabwe in 2012 in relation to this photo: violet doesn’t know how old she is. she thinks she is nearly 90. she lives in a run down block of flats without water and electricity in zimbabwe’s second city bulawayo. in 2005 her house was destroyed in operation murambatsvina. “i see things are changing but now it’s painful because we are even hungry.” president robert mugabe has shown that he is prepared to do anything to stay i power. his crushing of opposition to maintain control has led to poverty, food insecurity, joblessness, and as many as 2 million people fleeing the country. the united nations development program recently rated zimbabwe as the worst country in the world to live in. the recent history of zimbabwe has made life now barely livable. in november 2010 the un announced zimbabwe as one of 3 countries that has a human development index today lower than in 1970.
Photo @hammond_robin notes from 2012, when i took this photo in zimbabwe: christine, 9. wants to be a cook when she grows up. her mother is dead. her father has abandoned her. she is cared for by her grandparents. she doesn’t go to school.
Photo @hammond_robin in 2005 operation murambatsvina (move the rubbish) forcibly cleared slum areas across zimbabwe. 700,000 people lost their homes or livelihoods. the un described the campaign as an effort to drive out and make homeless large sections of the urban and rural poor, who made up much of the opposition to the mugabe administration. years later, when i visited, hundreds of thousands were still without homes. “it is polluted with bad smells, and even the way we are living it is a place which is easily affected by many diseases. the way we get our life is so difficult, we live like animals,” said a resident of this old beer hall, now home to many displaced families. this work i've been sharing from zimbabwe is featured in my book: ‘zimbabwe: your wounds will be named silence'
Photo @hammond_robin another from zimbabwe: “our parents used to work good jobs, but our generation things are a bit tough for us….. i used to build in harare, but after 2005 tsunami we were left with no jobs, we had to come to the rural area and the only thing to do was to dig for gold.”
Photo @hammond_robin for several years zimbabwe had the lowest life expectancy in the world. incredible given the county’s natural resources and once having a health care system that was the envy of surrounding countries. i met many on the front line of this tragedy including 56 year old rosepina who is h*v positive. incapacitated she relied on the dedicated care of her 26 year old daughter priscella.
Photo @hammond_robin. i remember taking this image back in 2012. it was getting dark and the driver accompanying me was getting scared. this wasn’t a place to be hanging around with camera gear, and being white, i hardly blended in. i took 2 or 3 frames as as the door in front of me opened and as i walked backwards following the pleas of the driver. this is the caption i wrote: zimbabwe’s first high-density suburb, mbare, was established in 1907. it was originally called harare township, a name later used for the capital city itself. harare is a corruption of haarari, meaning 'one who never sleeps'. to accommodate men coming to the capital for work the council built matapi flats and mbare hostels. they would work for a few days at a time and then return to their families in the rural areas. today those flats are dilapidated and severely overcrowded. many rooms are occupied two or three families. the area was the centre of a lethal cholera outbreak in 2008. significant portions of mbare’s ‘informal’ structures were destroyed by police and military forces during the operation murambatsvina in may 2005. it has been one of the most politically volatile areas in the country. the notorious mafia like chipangano gang, a zanu pf aligned militia, patrol the suburb extracting bribes and intimidating residents especially around election time. mbare has become synonymous with diseases, fear, crime, and political violence.
Photo by @hammond_robin
i spent a lot of time in zimbabwe between 2007 and 2013. a beautiful and troubled country where i witnessed the best and worst of humanity. i think a lot about zim - a country was once so rich in agricultural produce that it was dubbed the "bread basket" of southern africa, that now relies on food aid to feed many of its people. the massive reduction in agricultural productivity is blamed by many on a policy of land redistribution that has resulted in once productive farms being left derelict. the land reform program was meant as an effort to more equitably distribute land between the historically disenfranchised blacks and the minority-whites. critics say that, in practice, many of the best farms were forcibly taken from farmers, both black and white, who were perceived to oppose the ruling party and handed to politically connected figures who were often already very wealthy.
@whereloveisillegal is currently showing at photo kathmandu #photoktm2018 @photoktm. while here i’m also conducting a workshop with lgbtqi+ community members and continuing to make portraits and document stories. nepal has an amazingly progressive constitution when it comes to lgbtqi+ rights, especially for trans folks, but much of society is yet to catch up. posting soon on @whereloveisillegal