Singing doctor talks straight from the heart

2013-08-09 00:00

WHEN news about the recent banning of the film Of Good Report hit the headlines, the name of Dr Lwazi Manzi, a former Maritzburg resident, was prominent. Speaking at the Durban Film Festival on behalf of her husband, director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, she added huge weight to his cause when she shared her perspective as an emergency-room doctor at New Somerset Hospital in Greenpoint, Cape Town.

The film, which is being released nationwide today, tells the story of a school teacher’s attempts to get away with the brutal murder of a teenage beauty queen. “Just because they [the board] don’t want to see it, does not mean it [the abuse] does not happen,” she said at the festival, referring to the issue of older men preying on young girls.

Manzi, who grew up in Imbali Stage 3 and Hayfields, and went to St John’s DSG on a partial scholarship, graduated from UCT Medical School in 2006. She said in an interview this week that the issue of so-called sugar daddies is far reaching.

“It is not confined to gynaecological issues, ie teenage pregnancies, STDs. It also translates to medical (HIV) and even surgical problems, socioeconomic issues, psychological burdens (such as depression, drug abuse, psychosis), malnourishment in children (the percentage of malnourished children is higher for those of teens and single mothers) and poverty alleviation.

“So yes, I can tell you gruesome stories about 14-year-olds aborting, or losing their uterus after a complicated pregnancy or the number of kids giving birth daily. And I can tell you that in most cases, from what I have observed, the father is above the age of 21. Some say that’s statutory rape, get the fathers arrested and some doctors have tried to do so, but to do that is to deprive the mother and child of any chance of income, forcing them to become a burden on family or friends who themselves are already economically challenged.

“The problem when you don’t fix [an issue] at grass-roots level is that it feeds into other socioeconomic challenges.”

Manzi’s big-picture perspective comes from her family background. “My grandmother Gladys Manzi was heavily involved in politics and would be considered an ANC stalwart. She was arrested many times and banned for 10 years. She was buried in her ANC uniform, had a state funeral and has two streets named after her, in Pietermaritzburg and Durban.”

Manzi said her father, a lawyer, is still involved in politics and her mother, who works in the Department of Economic Development, is “in the trenches”.

She described herself as “very much my grandmother’s granddaughter! I have always taken up leadership positions at school, varsity and I was intern representative at the Sama regional branch for KZN Midlands”.

She said the sugar daddy phenomenon is not unique to this country. “That’s why we have films like Lolita, Towelhead, Kids, and a whole host of others. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the issues are, as long as you’re honest.”

While she believes the government is serious about tackling gender inequality, she says the solutions it has come up with are misguided. “In the first instance, most programmes are directed at women and when they do speak to them, they speak to their supposed state of disempowerment, vulnerability and disenfranchisement. That couldn’t be further from the truth! 43,8 % of households in South Africa are female headed. So that makes women almost half in charge in the real world. Why are you telling them they’re not?

“And then where are the programmes that address male inadequacies? Until men address their issues they will continue to perpetrate and dominate. Then there are real fixed taboos that exist in our society that need to be done away with. If we don’t air our dirty laundry as a society, it will continue to fester in our communities as it is doing now.”

Manzi became a doctor because she wanted to do something that combined science with people, and her job has its highs and lows. “The best part [of being a doctor] is you just have to say ‘I’m Dr …’ and people’s attitudes immediately change, always for the better! The worst? Body fluids and maggots where they just shouldn’t be! And when a child dies, especially while you are trying to resuscitate. I don’t think anyone ever gets over those.”

Music helps keep the darkness at bay and is a serious part of her life. An accomplished vocalist, she took a year off from medicine after her studies to concentrate on her music.

“I was lead vocals for a band called Alan Funk and we actually did very well in Cape Town and were well-known and booked. It all floundered, however, when it was time to take it further and go national, which meant us all quitting our jobs and being on the road.”

She left the band and headed back to Maritzburg to do her internship, although she continued to do sessions with bands while she was here. She’s also a proficient DJ. “I’ve jockeyed at Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka’s 50th birthday, at top government and parastatal functions and three times at the Africa Musical Festival in Wurzburg, Germany, travelling with other musicians like Freshlyground, Lira among others.”

She’s just finished recording vocals for a track with DJ Darque, who is releasing his first album this month, produced by Dino Michael. “It’s taken me a long time but by some turn of luck, I’m now playing with the big guys! We hope to release my own album [in collaboration with Dino Michael and Darque] by Easter next year.”

And then there is parenthood. As a mother of two toddlers, Solomzi (30 months) and Thole (1), life is a 24/7 blur. “I have absolutely no idea how I do it. Somewhere in all of it, my nanny is always there — she is amazing. It also really helps to have a supportive husband who is totally involved with the nappy changes, cooking and feeding.”

On the plus side, she says her children are easy going and she loves hanging out with them as they help her de-stress. If there’s any time left, she enjoys mountaineering and outdoor activities in general, as well as travelling and good food.

When Of Good Report opens in cinemas around the country today, she’ll be able to feel satisfied that as executive producer, she played a part in its creation. Apart from being one of the film’s three financiers, she said she was “very involved from the time my husband developed the script, right to now with the release and the premiere”.

So far the feedback’s been good. “Many South Africans who have seen the film believe it has far exceeded Tsotsi in its artistic merit and should be punted for the Academy Awards,” she said.

In KZN, the film will initially only be showing at Gateway’s Cinema Nouveau, but Manzi said they are working on bringing it to Pietermaritzburg, too.

• Follow what’s happening with the film on Facebook (Of Good Report page) and twitter


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