Maxwell Kapachawo was the first Zimbabwean pastor to openly declare his HIV status and call on the church and other sectors of society to join together to fight the epidemic and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Following Kapachawo’s brave move to become a role model for living positively with HIV, he appeared in a high-profile nationwide campaign sponsored by an international NGO to reduce the stigma around HIV. In the mid-2000s, himself, a teacher and a lecturer publically declared their HIV status on television, radio and on billboards around the country as a way of encouraging others to get tested and to understand that the disease could be managed positively. Maxwell became known for this campaign and used his profile to fight for various issues facing the community from which he comes. He also became a member of the National AIDS Council (NAC) for many years, and remains a respected campaigner and spokesperson for the most marginalised members of society.
What few people know about him is that Maxwell was born and grew up on a tobacco farm in Harare South, the son of farm-workers. Leaving school early due to financial constraints he worked as a farm guard from his late teens to his early 20s. It was during this period that he contracted HIV.
Maxwell managed to escape farm life when he got the opportunity to study theology through his church. After a few years, he became a pastor and was happily married with children. However, when Maxwell’s then untreated HIV started making him ill, his church found out about his HIV status, and expelled him. It was this experience which caused him to become a passionate HIV campaigner and advocate against the stigma of the disease.
In the mid-2000s, the farm Maxwell still lived on was also taken over for resettlement by illegal housing cooperatives. The former farm-workers were threatened with eviction, something Maxwell led them to resist through political lobbying and court orders. He was also instrumental in fighting for the farm-workers to maintain access to the farm school, which many of their children attended, but which the resettlers threatened to take over and rename. Maxwell was a leading member of the school development association (SDA) for many years. He also advocated for the rights of many farm-workers on neighbouring farms who faced eviction due to proposed housing developments.
In order to serve his community better, Maxwell initiated the Rev. Maxwell and Friends Foundation, a registered Trust which aims to assist young people on peri-urban farms around Harare. The Trust has completed many commendable projects, such as maintaining the local school, despite having very limited funding.
Despite all of his efforts on behalf of others, the economic situation in the country ensured that Maxwell was struggling to make a decent living by 2012. When his wife died in that year, he was left alone to raise their young son and infant daughter. The desperation of his situation drove Maxwell to South Africa in 2015, where he first worked as a gardener on a farm and then as a debt collector. Unfortunately he was violently abused and threatened by his employer in the latter job and returned to Zimbabwe. In South Africa, he also faced the problem of maintaining access to his antiretroviral medication.
Since returning, Maxwell has survived on odd-jobs and through growing crops on his small plot near the farm compound. Work opportunities, however, have dried up, while the irregular rains have badly affected his small crop of maize. He has also been unable to raise any funding for the Maxwell and Friends Foundation. Maxwell is appealing for job opportunities of any kind to assist him to feed himself and his family, and to pay for school fees for his children. Any other forms of support for himself and for the Maxwell and Friends Foundation would also be gratefully received.
If you would like to assist Maxwell or his Foundation, please contact him on +263 77 221 8955 or firstname.lastname@example.org
His banking details are as follows:
Bank: Steward Bank
Account name: Maxwell Kapachawo
Account Number: 1004759498