I first met Professor Chifumbe Chintu in the 1950s at Munali Secondary School where we both undertook secondary school education. Munali was the only public secondary boarding school for boys in the country. Boys who excelled in school and
were lucky enough to be admitted to the school came from all corners of the then Northern Rhodesia. Prof Chintu came from Mungwi in Northern Province and I came from Chingola on the Copperbelt Province.
He was not only an outstanding student but also excelled in other areas outside the classroom. He had a passion for agriculture and grew vegetables in his spare time, a passion he pursued even in his later life.
He was a talented athlete and represented the school and the country in 400 metres and 800 metres races at national and international championships. He also played and represented the school in other sports disciplines, football in particular.
After Munali, Prof Chintu and I went separate ways. However, the in early 1960s, we found ourselves in Canada. He studied medicine at the School of Medicine in Toronto, Ontario. I studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
During our time in Canada, we visited each other a few times. On one occasion, he came to Winnipeg to represent his university at an international athletics championship and stayed with me for a few days. We used the opportunity to share our dreams for the future. His focus on a career as a medical doctor was always evident.
He came back to Zambia after obtaining his medical qualification in 1966 and practised medicine at Kitwe Central Hospital. I came back a year later after obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree and joined Roan Consolidated Mines (RCM) in Mufulira. We visited eachother often and played tennis when his busy work schedule allowed it.
In time, we both relocated to Lusaka.
When his health began to fail him I visited him both in hospital and at home. In fact, a week or so before he was taken to hospital for the last time, I had spoken to him on the phone. He had assured me that his health had improved and could not wait to get back to work. Alas, that was not to be.
Prof Chintu, to those of us who were fortunate enough to have known and interacted with him on a personal level, can be described as a man of unique qualities.
He dedicated his whole life to his chosen profession – medicine – and his contribution to the profession is equal to none. He lived and breathed the practice of medicine at the highest level
Roderick, as those of us who were close to him addressed him, could have practised medicine anywhere in the world and I am sure he had many lucrative offers from some of the top hospitals and medical schools in the world, but he chose to remain at home, in Zambia, and serve his kinsmen. Wealth and material possessions were never a priority.
Unless you know the man first hand and what he has accomplished, you would not guess from his demeanour just how exceptional he was. He carried himself as a simple and an unassuming person. He treated everyone he came across-irrespective of class or status- the same way he treated his patients with the utmost respect, care and attention
Prof Chintu is no more today, but his legacy of selfless service to mankind will live on not only in the hearts and minds of those of us who regarded him as a friend, but also as a footprint of professional excellence in Zambia and wherever the profession of medicine is and will be practised.
He will be dearly missed. May his soul rest in peace.
The author is professor Chintu’s long-time friend.