Former Midlands provincial governor Cephas Msipa made a gibe at President Robert Mugabe when he questioned why some leaders preferred to go abroad for medical treatment when our own health system was alive and kicking and run by world-class professionals.
That this was no doubt clearly aimed at Mugabe is because of the numerous trips Mugabe has made to the Far East to seek medical treatment for eye cataracts. This year alone he has visited Singapore on two occasions ostensibly for this purpose.
Reports have also shown that Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa has been to India at least twice this year for medical reasons. Besides these two high-profile cases lots of senior Zanu PF officials also prefer to seek treatment abroad ahead of local institutions and medical personnel.
It is known the world over that one of the best eye specialists in the world is a Zimbabwean; hence many have questioned if Mugabe’s visits are really about cataracts or about a more serious condition.
Recently local surgeons, without any help from abroad, successfully separated conjoined twins in a delicate operation that can only be performed by the very best doctors anywhere in the world. This is testimony that indeed Zimbabwe has the expertise to meet any medical challenges.
Msipa testified that he himself had visited a local hospital for treatment and was surprised by the standard of treatment he got.
But Msipa, if he wasn’t making a purely political statement seems totally disconnected with the reality on the ground, particularly that there is a two-tier health delivery system; one for the rich and influential such as himself,and another for the poor.
Msipa himself, by virtue of being a senior Zanu PF official and one of the most revered politicians in the land, obviously belongs to the class of the rich and influential and has the means to pay the best doctors in Zimbabwe and, health personnel,without any bidding, are likely to treat him like royalty.
Not so for the poor!
Daily poor people are left to die at the country’s referral hospitals because they cannot afford to pay for drugs. It has been said recently that besides drugs, blood transfusions have gone out of the rich of the majority of our people.
Only last week most newspapers quoted deputy Health minister Paul Chimedza saying the country was fast running out of drugs. It is also common knowledge that the number of women in Zimbabwe dying while giving birth is one of the highest in the world. Also, more than 5000 infants die at birth or within a month of birth yearly in Harare alone.
That Msipa seems oblivious of this is shocking. And, that is why our political stasis has become so intractable. Elderly senior citizens and statesmen, such as Msipa, who should be advising Mugabe on issues such as health delivery are themselves woefully detached from the reality on the ground.
Msipa’s class, which includes Mugabe, should wake up to reality. They should fix the health delivery system so it is suitable for them to be treated locally and, most importantly, so that it is available to the poorest members of our society.
But obviously Msipa deserves a pat on the back just for raising the issue; it couldn’t have been lost on Mugabe that he was the subject of the sneer.