Zimbabwe: Stamps Pivotal in Fight Against HIV

16 April 2021

Head of Zimpapers Knowledge Centre

Dr Timothy Stamps was a Health Advisor in the Office of the President and Cabinet and former Minister of Health and Child Welfare.

He died on November 26 2017 at the Borrowdale Trauma Centre after succumbing to lung infection.

Born Timothy John Stamps on October 15, 1936 in Surrey, England, he was the younger of two children born to Edward Stamps and Winnifred Dunkley.

He did primary and secondary education in Wales, completing A Level with three As in Chemistry, Physics and Biology at Whitchurch Grammar School. He proceeded to enrol for a Bachelor of Science degree in Medicine at Welsh National School of Medicine and was admitted on October 1, 1954.

He completed the degree in 1957 and immediately began serving a two-year mandatory housemanship, which he completed in 1959.

Armed with MBChB qualification, the young doctor was registered as a medical practitioner in 1960, becoming one of the youngest doctors in the United Kingdom at that time.

In April 1962, Dr Stamps married Elizabeth Craig Raby.

The couple were blessed with four children namely: Alasdair Craig; Victoria Rebekah; Ghislaine Elizabeth and Philippines, born Sophy Eloise Nguyen Thi Van, whom the couple legally adopted.

In pursuit of medical excellence, the intellectually gifted Dr Stamps enrolled for a Diploma in Public Health at the University of Wales, receiving his qualification in 1964. After qualifying as a medical practitioner, Dr Stamps had a short stint with the British Medical system before he came to colonial Rhodesia in 1968 to join the country's Public Health Service.

One of the main reasons for leaving the United Kingdom was that he strongly opposed abortion, which by law, he was required to perform.

He was appointed Deputy City Medical Officer for the Municipality of Salisbury before he rose through the ranks to become the City's Chief Medical Officer in 1970.

Dr Stamps was passionate about his profession and did not subscribe to the policies of racial segregation practiced by the Rhodesian oppressive regime.

While serving as Chief Medical Officer, he clashed with the Rhodesian racist authorities when he tried to implement universal access to health facilities for black people that were marginalised and was consequently victimised. At that time, whites comprised of not more than 15 percent of the population of Salisbury (now Harare) and at least 60 percent of municipal spending on social services in the city was reserved for them.

He was dismissed from the post of Chief Medical Officer in 1974 after he strongly resisted the Rhodesian authorities' directive to discriminate against the black community in the provision of medical health care.

During the same year, the ever academically thirsty Stamps earned a Law degree from the University of Rhodesia. After leaving the position of Chief Medical Officer, Dr Stamps worked as a doctor in a number of community projects.

He became chairperson of the United Nations-sponsored "Freedom from Hunger" campaign. In May 1976, he was elected to the then Salisbury City Council. Around the same period, Dr Stamps parted ways with his wife Elizabeth.

In the early 1980s, Dr Stamps was instrumental in the construction of clinics and community hospitals in rural Zimbabwe, sourcing funds from abroad to improve health care from for the poor and the disadvantaged.

Zimbabwe sought to expand healthcare facilities and Dr Stamps worked closely with the Ministry of Health on a number of projects.

Earlier on, while working with the Salisbury City Council, he got acquainted to Ronald Willis, a district officer at Greendale district council, who would later become his father-in-law.

Dr Stamps married Cindy Elaine Willis on October 24, 1982 and the two were blessed with three children: Kenyon Ronald, Talfan and Haley.

At a time when a few white commercial farmers where dominating the land reform programme, Dr Stamps sought to develop an equitable model for land ownership and usage.

In 1982, he facilitated the purchase of Vuti Dairy farm which was later developed into an income and livelihood co-operative project for landless blacks using a $2 million grant from the German charity organisation, AgroAction. Dr Stamps was able to facilitate the settling of 2 000 people at the farm which became self-funding after eight years.

He joined Zanu PF as one of the few party members with healthcare management experience. His advice and services were vital and he became the Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Greendale constituency in the 1990 general elections.

After recognising his contribution and commitment to the health service sector, he was appointed Minister of Health and Child Welfare in the same year, taking over from the late hero Dr Felix Muchemwa.

Dr Stamps is credited with playing a pivotal role in the fight against HIV and Aids pandemic, earning the moniker "Killjoy" amongst colleagues and acquaintances as he neither tolerated nor minced his words in calling for behavioural change as a way to combat the spread of the disease.

In 1991, Dr Stamps became patron of the Zimbabwe Diabetes Association. During his early years as a Minister, he promoted the development of community healthcare and public health systems in the 1990s.

The expansion of healthcare in Zimbabwe became a model for other developing countries. Dr Stamps got a lot of credit for this and was frequently asked to speak at international conferences on the subject.

He also made immense contributions in the fight against HIV and Aids epidemic through advocating for promulgation of policies aimed at mitigating the effects of the scourge.

In 1999, his efforts in collaboration with officials from his ministry, pushed for the creation of National Aids Council (NAC) through an Act of Parliament and the introduction of the AIDS levy.

His passion to curb HIV and Aids saw him leading an initiative to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Zimbabwe. Dr Stamps actively campaigned for Zanu PF in the 2000 general elections and was returned to the House of Assembly as a non-constituency MP.

He suffered a stroke towards the end of 2001, but carried on as Health Minister until March 2002. Dr Stamps was then replaced by his deputy, Dr David Parirenyatwa, in August the same year.

Dr Stamps founded Dr Timothy Stamps Trust for people leaving with chronic conditions after being touched by their plight.

He became the patron of the Trust and under his leadership was instrumental in the Trust's advocacy for the introduction of the sign language in national programmes.

He also advocated for policies designed to rehabilitate and treat drug addicts, instead of having them incarcerated. In addition, Dr Stamps was a patron of a number of organisations, among them:

Eczema Trust Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Mental Health Association

Doctors of Hope

Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance

Zimbabwe HIV Activists Union Community Trust

Amongst his many achievements, Dr Stamps was appointed Health Advisor in the Office of the President and Cabinet in 2013, Acting advisor on National Disability Issues in the same office in 2015, and a Member of the National Consultative Assembly for Harare Province (2014).

He facilitated the acquisition of 46 stands in Mabvuku by mothers of disabled children. He had a great passion for sports which saw him forming a girls' football team called Zvitambi Football Team, based in Chitungwiza.

Dr Stamps was a dedicated Zanu-PF cadre, who remained committed to the revolutionary objectives of the Party until his untimely death.

At the time of his death, Dr Stamps was survived by wife Cindy, seven children and eight grandchildren.

A Guide to the Heroes Acre: Some basic facts about Zimbabwe's heroes and the Heroes Acre. (2019) Harare: Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.

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