Meryl Harrison, Zimbabwe’s Fearless Animal Activist, Needs our Help!
More than R40,000 of donations made for Meryl’s healthcare is being held by the NSPCA and she needs our help to secure it. If you donated for Meryl’s operation or ongoing health needs, please email the NSPCA’s Executive Director, Marcelle Meredith – firstname.lastname@example.org – and inform her that you wish the donation made for Meryl’s healthcare to be released to her. Please email me – email@example.com – with any response that you receive from Marcelle Meredith.
More on Facebook HERE for you to please share widely and reach out to any animal loving friends who may have helped Meryl with a personal donation back in 2003.
The full details follow below:
I’m very proud to have been friends with Meryl Harrison for over 30 years. Meryl’s story is well documented, particularly in Cathy Buckle’s book Innocent Victims. Having not had the opportunity to see Meryl for years, Bill, my husband, and I recently spent the weekend with her (she now lives about 3 hours drive away from us in the UK). We spoke at length about what had happened in 2003 regarding her heart problem, much of which is published in the chapter entitled “Heart beat” in Innocent Victims. This is what Meryl told me:
By halfway through 2003 Meryl’s heart problem (artrial fibrillation) was becoming worse by the day, and although she was on medication for it, she lost count of the number of times she was rushed to hospital, often by ambulance, where she was put onto a morphine drip for the pain. They could not stop her heart beating so fast (over 200 times a minute) because she was on beta blockers. It was the most agonising pain, but Meryl just had to sit it out – an attack usually lasted about 3 to 4 hours.
Meryl’s doctor finally said enough was enough and that she must go to South Africa to have it sorted out. Her doctor had already spoken to a cardiologist at Milpark Hospital and he had agreed. At the time CIMAS medical aid would only cover the cost of operations, etc, if they were paid upfront first in foreign currency – because Roly, Meryl’s partner, had already had an operation in South Africa, with that and all his medications, Meryl had no foreign currency left. So she told the doctor that there was no ways she could go.
At the time a journalist based in South Africa, Fred Bridgland, had been contacting Meryl every couple of months and writing pieces on the farm rescues that she was doing. Over the months they had become very good friends and she trusted him as a journalist. Around this time he phoned Meryl for an update and she happened to mention her doctor’s visit. A few days later he did a long piece in the paper headed “Ailing animal activist braves Mugabe’s war vets”. It did not include a plea for funding, but Meryl thinks that this was where John Robbie (who was with Radio 702 then) heard about it – he too used to phone her about every 6 months to get the latest update on the situation on the farms.
A few days later John phoned Meryl and asked about her heart. Obviously with some reluctance, she informed him that she would not be coming to South Africa and she told him why. They chatted for a bit longer and then he said his listeners might be able to help. Meryl will never forget that before she rang off she heard a man from Krugersdrop phone in and pledge R300.
About half an hour later, Meryl left home to drive the short trip to work when the SABC phoned again to say that John wanted to talk to her. She pulled off the dust road and listened to John telling her that to his amazement just about everything had been donated (the list appears on page 254 of Innocent Victims). Meryl was so shocked and touched that she burst into tears!
At about the same time other appeals were put out – such as Bernice Robertson-Dyer (then Chairman of ZNSPCA), Cherry Grobler (All About Dogs magazine), myself – and everyone was asked to send their donations to the NSPCA marked ‘Zimhelp’. There were donations sent into Radio 702 too, which were all paid over when needed during Meryl’s hospitalisation in Johannesburg – the folk at Radio 702 were absolutely wonderful. However, the majority of the donations were paid into the NSPCA – over R40,000 from what Meryl understands. Marcelle Meredith was, and still is, the Executive Director of the NSPCA.
Meryl was so lucky to have been accompanied to South Africa for the operation by her very good friend, Linda Townsend, who supported and cared for her in such a difficult time. The operation was a success and she returned to work in Zimbabwe after a short period of recuperation (albeit having to be driven around by one of the inspectors), so she was soon very preoccupied with stressful farm rescues once again.
There had been no word from Marcelle about the donations for Meryl coming into the NSPCA, and her medical bills were daunting. So a good friend of Meryl’s, Pippa Cory, took it upon herself to email Marcelle to enquire when and how Meryl would be receiving the funds. Marcelle’s response was that she acknowledged that the donations had been sent in by the public because Meryl was not well and needed an operation, but that she was now better and therefore no longer needed the donations! She then stated that if Meryl insisted on having her money, she must personally contact every single donor and ask them if they approved of her having the funds that they had donated! Those responses must be sent to Marcelle…..
Such a ridiculous request – how would Meryl ever be able to track down all the donors? She had no idea who they were! Pippa responded angrily that it was an impossible request and just because the operation had been a success, it did not mean Meryl was no longer in need of help for her medical expenses – she needed funding for medications, weekly blood tests, periodic ECGs, pacemaker checks and visits to the cardiologist in Bulawayo. Marcelle did not respond.
The father of a good friend of Meryl’s, an elderly pensioner who lives in Wales, sent £25 and was incandescent with rage when he later learnt that she had never received his donation. So too were the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the Netherlands. Meryl wonders if all the other donors know that their funds never reached her?
Needless to say, I was stunned and shocked to hear that the funds donated into the NSPCA account specifically for Meryl’s healthcare had never reached her. I asked her why she did not follow it up further after Pippa’s attempt?
She replied that at the time she was feeling too overwhelmed with everything that was going on and just didn’t have the energy or the fight left to stand up for herself against Marcelle. (Meryl has never been good at standing up for herself.) The Radio 702 donations had successfully got her through the operation and that was the most important thing – she was so grateful to John Robbie and his team for that. Meryl thought, well, if Marcelle wanted to behave like that, she’d just let her get on with it – Meryl had better things to do with the farm rescues being in full swing.
Marcelle Meredith had absolutely no right to refuse to transfer the donations to Meryl – to my mind, this amounts plainly and simply to theft and is bound to be a breach of charity law.
Meryl has recently received an email from another good friend of hers, Linda Ainsworth, which says it all:
I am horrified and saddened to hear that still after all this time you haven’t ever received any of the funds that were raised and donated by members of the public in Zimbabwe, South Africa and overseas to assist you with medical treatment and recovery at a time when not only did you literally put your life on the line to save Zimbabwe’s “Innocent Victims” time after time, but so obviously put your health at risk too. I cannot believe that once again you have been put in a position where your integrity is being questioned and your great deeds are being dishonoured by the very people who were supposedly meant to be “watching your back” supporting you both morally and in this case financially. Where is this money now? If it is still being held by the NSPCA it should immediately be made over to you. I know how you have struggled financially since leaving Zimbabwe and how your health could have benefited from the care this money could have provided both then and now.
So much time has passed since this money was raised, no doubt if it has been well invested it has also made interest? Who has benefited from this? It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth and also I am sure all of the people who donated (most of them at a time in Zimbabwe when things were financially tough for everyone) are totally oblivious of this travesty because they, in good faith, believed it was being put to a good cause. Many of these people were the owners of pets and livestock that you saved from horrific deaths or torture. It is just so morally wrong – and I cannot get over this. My elderly father Tom Ainsworth (on a meagre pension) made a personal donation towards your operation because of the association and friendship we shared. He feels cheated and angry discovering this knowledge and will be contacting the NSPCA direct to ask where his money is and demand it back if it doesn’t come to you.
I believe we should contact all of those who donated and make this news public. It may not be possible to reach all of them personally, but social media is amazing in the way it can reach thousands by one strike of a key… so let’s do this. You still have a lot of friends in the international media too – let’s bring this dirty laundry out into the open and shame these people who have defrauded both you, the generous public and animal lovers that wanted you to personally benefit from this fundraising so you could continue to do your amazing work.
Stay strong my friend and keep fighting. Justice will prevail.“
Yes, let’s do it! Let’s make this news public in the hope that it reaches the ears of all those kind and generous donors who paid money for Meryl into the NSPCA account. If that’s you, I urge you to contact Marcelle Meredith at the NSPCA and demand that your donation is transferred to Meryl as it should have been 15 years ago, or that Marcelle returns it to you with the interest due!
Marcelle Meredith, if you are reading this, it is your duty to comply with the wishes of the donors and you owe Meryl your unreserved public apology!
Meryl is nearly 80 years old now and survives on a pittance in the UK with no pension to her name – and although she has wonderful care courtesy of the British health system, she will have medical expenses for her heart condition for the rest of her life such as her mobility aids, medic alert system and the like.
Please, let’s get this sorted out once and for all, for Meryl’s sake.
Thank you for taking the trouble to read this and please share this article amongst all your friends.