REPORTS that hundreds of disgruntled Zimbabweans in South Africa yesterday demonstrated outside a hospital in that country, where Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga is reportedly receiving medical attention, are a sad reminder to our government to properly fund our local institutions so that we all benefit.
This is an embarrassing act by the country’s leaders who have the penchant of flying out to receive first-class medical treatment while the majority back home cannot afford consultation fees for a clinic without nurses and/or medication.
While there were conflicting reports over whether Chiwenga was in Cape Town for treatment or not, the demonstrations by a handful of Zimbabweans clearly speak to a nation disillusioned by the nation’s leadership even before President Emmerson Mnangagwa is yet to complete 12 months in office.
Wherever Chiwenga is being treated is another story. It is, however, regrettable that back home, the government has given permission to health workers to work only two days a week because it has no money to pay them. This means the poor majority Zimbabweans are being denied the right to basic health care — itself a universal human right. What a tragedy!
Doctors recently called off their 40-day strike at a time nurses went on a go-slow, citing financial incapacitation, but Mnangagwa’s government sees it fit to airlift Chiwenga for specialist treatment in well-resourced medical facilities outside our borders, while our own institutions remain in a comatose state or left to rot. This has been the trend since the era of former President Robert Mugabe, who shamelessly spent the better part of his rulership flying out to countries such as Singapore for regular medical check-ups.
Mnangagwa seems to have taken a cue from his former boss, as he regularly flies to South Africa, alongside his top lieutenants for special care. What of those without the means or access to the scarce foreign currency?
What angers Zimbabweans most is that this is coming at a time the same government has failed to avail foreign currency for procurement of drugs for ordinary citizens who can’t fly out for specialist attention.
So, it came as no surprise that Zimbabweans across the Limpopo decided to picket at a spot they thought housed Chiwenga — whether it’s true or not — to express their anger over the Zanu PF regime’s skewed priorities. While this act could be a bit inhuman, considering Chiwenga is ill, their act, we believe, was well intended to send a message home.
People are dying from preventable diseases some of them medieval, not to mention the stress from the deteriorating economic situation that has left them struggling for basics.
Can Mnangagwa and Chiwenga spare a thought for the millions of Zimbabweans who voted them into power hoping to see a change from the way Mugabe used to run the country for 37 years? Mnangagwa made several electoral promises, including improving the health sector, apart from creating “the Zimbabwe we want”.
But six months down the line, Zimbabwe has found itself sliding down an economic cliff, the health situation deteriorating and waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid decimating the population.