Letter to the Editor

Ode to John Chilufya Masange

Dear editor,
LAST week I heard of the death of Mr John Masange at 88.
There hasn’t been a lot of information about his passing either in mainstream or social media.
It looks like there are some people who pass away quietly in spite of living a luminary’s life.
Mr Masange was the first indigenous Zambian to become a surgeon after earning his undergraduate degree in South Africa before independence.
He became assistant dean of the University of Zambia, School of Medicine, and took leave of absence to become the first Zambian chief medical officer in the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines who was also a consultant.
When the Central Board of Health was formed, he became its executive director after a short time as group medical advisor for ZCCM.
He was instrumental in convincing the mining conglomerate that the hospitals needed Zambian specialists at consultant level.
Many Zambian doctors were sent abroad under ZCCM sponsorship to specialise in various fields which had previously been held by expatriates.
He was also passionate about improving nursing staffing and health care delivery in the mine hospitals. He retired to live a private life in Kitwe with his late wife, Dulcie.
Mr Masange was a humorous man who graced us with his jokes when we were medical students and junior doctors.
As a manager, he had integrity that is rare in Zambia. He told us about how expatriates whose contracts were due for review would try to bribe him with gifts which he refused. He was very unassuming but maintained a particularly high standard in what he did and how he lived.
I will remember him not just as my boss but also a friend to both my wife and I. He was happy to be the guest of honour at our wedding and kept in touch with us while I was training in the UK. When he retired from the CBOH, I went to see him at his home in Kitwe. I drove an E230 Mercedes Benz at the time. As we were saying goodbye by the car, he suddenly said to me, ‘Dr Ngoma, wait a minute.’ Yes, he never called me Charles.
He went back into the house and came back with a small silver shiny metallic object in transparent clear plastic. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘I think you will need this.’ It was a Mercedes 3-point star. He noticed that mine was broken.
Years later, when I visited him again he joked, ‘Where is the star I lent you?’ John Masange will be missed.

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