In Memoriam: Evans Tendayi Kuntonda

15 July 1980 to 4 March 2011

On Friday 4 March 2011, Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders in South Africa was devastated at the news of Evans Kuntonda’s sudden death.

We lost a dear friend and colleague – a man whose passion for helping others inspired us and ensured that people marginalised and excluded in South Africa were not left without a voice or much needed medical care.

Evans was the second eldest born into in a family of six – four brothers and two sisters.

He attended Nyandoro Primary School and Highfield 1 High School in Zimbabwe. After completing his secondary school education he joined the Catholic seminary to train as a priest. But in 2003 the death of his father, who was the Kuntonda family’s sole bread winner, meant Evans had to drop out to look for a job in order to provide for them.

His quest to improve the lives of his family as for so many Zimbabweans lead him to South Africa, and Evans soon became active in humanitarian assistance at the Central Methodist Church (CMC) in the Johannesburg inner-city. Here worked closely with Bishop Paul Verryn and a short while after MSF opened a primary healthcare clinic adjacent to the CMC Evans joined MSF as a Health Promoter.
He worked diligently with MSF to build trust and mutual respect with local community leaders in order to gain access to some of the most difficult to reach slum buildings in the inner-city and bring comfort to his people.

Evans was a humble but formidable soul who cared deeply about humanity. He suffered great pain to witness the plight of people struggling to survive. He provided support and encouragement for young people who had lost family. He had the rare gift to motivate and inspire people in a state of helplessness to become empowered and to fight the horrible conditions they were living under. He was as a quiet leader with fire that burned inside him.

Evans is survived by his wife Pricilla and two children, a boy and a girl.

“I am very sad at the sudden death of our dear friend and colleague Evans Kuntonda. Many of us got to know him as a very enthusiastic fighter for the rights and dignity of Zimbabweans stranded in Johannesburg. Without his understanding and help, we would never have had the possibility to access the most vulnerable in inner city. Evans was always passionate about his work and believes. We will all miss him,” Ariane Bauernfeind, MSF head of Mission for South Africa and Lesotho, said.

This loss is a loss unparalleled for us all. In the tradition of the liberation struggle, when we mourned our fallen fighters, conscious of the imperative to maintain high morale within our ranks, we always declared, with clenched fists and hot tears trapped at the back of our swollen eyes:  “The spear has fallen; pick it up!”

Hamba kahle comrade Evans Kuntonda!

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