Zimbabwe’s Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede, has over the years been known for running the country’s disputed elections, in particular, the country’s voters’ roll, largely viewed as chaotic by many, including opposition parties.
Now he finds himself in another controversy, far removed from the country’s electoral processes.
Mudede has waded into modern contraceptives and wants Zimbabwean women to abandon contraceptives and start using natural methods of birth control.
Not much is known about Mudede’s interests in contraceptives and gender issues as he has always been the face of a Home Affairs department that has struggled over the years with service delivery.
Modern birth control methods are harmful, Mudede told Parliament’s Women and Gender Portfolio Committee. He claimed that birth control methods like Jadele, Depo-Provera and Norplant should not be used in Zimbabwe.
“The effects of these drugs are deadly,” said Mudede. “The effects are frightening.”
Mudede says he carried out some research which indicated that these contraceptives have serious side effects.
In some cases, said Mudede, people developed abnormal vision, depression, decreased libido and fatigue.
Results of his research, which included newspaper cuttings, have not been validated by independent doctors and the Ministry of Health.
To prove his point, he brought to parliament Chipo Matowanyika and Moreblessing Shava, who used Depo Provera and Jadele.
“I started having serious side effects when I was using the contraceptives and I also lost my libido and appetite,” said Shava.
But most stakeholders are skeptical about Mudede’s so-called research, just like how they have doubted the way he has, for more than 30 years, struggled to run his department.
Dr. Munyaradzi Murwira, executive director of the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, dismisses the Registrar-General’s findings, noting that Norplant was phased out in the country in 1990.
Dr. Murwira says like any medical product, family planning methods have side effects but not as serious as what is being portrayed by the Registrar-General.
Beata Nyamupinga of the Women and Gender Parliamentary Portfolio Committee says Mudede’s remarks are worrying many Zimbabwean women who use some of these birth control methods.
Other lawmakers are also worried. Parliamentarian Hubert Nyanhongo says the Registrar-General should work with the Ministry of Health on this sensitive issue.
“There really is need for more research into this issue because you just never know,” he said.
Indications are that the Ministry of Health is not interested in Mudede’s work.
Dr. Owen Mugurungi, the ministry’s acting principal director for Preventive Services, says all medicine used in Zimbabwe is registered in the country of origin and rigorously tested by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe.