REVELATIONS that Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga has flown to China for treatment just months after declaring that the government was banning health tourism exposes the stinking hypocrisy that permeates the corridors of power.
Chiwenga, who was appointed Health minister in September, declared that the government was banning medical trips abroad by Zimbabweans as they contributed to the haemorrhaging of the scarce foreign currency.
Chiwenga said Zimbabwean doctors would be barred from writing referral letters for patients to foreign hospitals, even as the country’s hospitals have turned into death traps without even the most basic medicine.
“We will not export our patients. We will not make referrals (to foreign medical facilities) for our patients. It’s everybody,” Chiwenga said. “Ministers are only about 20, but those who have been going out it’s you, you, me, altogether. That export bill was too high and that’s what we want to curtail. We want to do away with that, and it requires us to carry out restructuring from the village health worker right up to the quaternary hospital,” he said then.
Yet over only less than four months after those utterances, Chiwenga has squandered the much-needed foreign currency to fly to China, abandoning the local health facilities he superintends over. How on earth does he expect the general public to have confidence in the country’s health system if the one who runs the sector abandons it when he needs treatment? The double standards are truly sickening (no pun intended)
That Chiwenga flies to China at a time the country’s health system is in a crisis characterised by dilapidated public hospitals and constant strikes by health workers over poor working condition and paltry salaries makes a mockery of the decision by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to appoint him to head the Health ministry.
Perhaps, we should not be surprised at all by the glaring hypocrisy. This is, after all, a government which still cannot allocate 15% of the national budget to the Health ministry as recommended by the Abuja Declaration despite the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed nearly 300 lives in the country. Zimbabwe, ironically, is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration.
It is laughable that government calls itself a new dispensation when it continues to neglect critical sectors such as health, which was also a trait of the so-called old dispensation of the late former President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, like Chiwenga, would wax lyrical about turning around the country’s health sector before flying time and again to Singapore for treatment.
Occasional visits to public hospitals by the likes of First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, flanked by the pliant State media, is by no means the panacea to the health crisis.
The resuscitation of the health sector requires more action and less hypocrisy from the likes of Chiwenga.