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Editor’s Memo

A Bright revelation

By Vincent Kahiya

CONGRATULATIONS to Information and Publicity deputy minister Bright Matonga for demonstrating to us this week how poorly this country is being governed. Matonga’s initiative on

Monday is an important milestone in a political career blighted by corruption charges linked to the Zupco bus purchase racket.

The politician, whose ministry has oftentimes accused the media of negativity, broke ranks with the government line when he took a television news crew to Mhondoro/Ngezi Hospital in his constituency. The purpose of the media tour was to let the whole nation know that the hospital does not have running water and it does not even have painkillers. The hospital is not admitting any patients because of these serious problems.

I particularly liked the bit where Matonga uses his journalistic skills to “interview” a forlorn male nurse (There was no evidence of a doctor at the hospital) who recounted how the pump had broken down and had been taken to Kadoma. The “interview” also revealed that Natpharm, a parastatal which manufactures and procures drugs for government hospitals, had long since forgotten about the hospital. The hospital’s drugstore is empty.

The news clip then showed Matonga examining the threadbare bedding in an empty ward whose ceiling was supported by makeshift scaffolding to prevent it from caving in. The news piece ended with Matonga now “reporting” from outside the hospital, summarising the sad story a la Reuben Barwe.

“There are no patients here because there is no water and there are no drugs…” he said. He then launched an appeal for assistance.

To add to the horror, Health deputy minister Edwin Muguti when asked to explain the awful situation at the hospital, said he was aware of the problem and that it should not have been left to deteriorate to the current levels. In other words, where was Matonga and others when all this was happening?

If Matonga had hoped to get political mileage from this Bright expose, he had instead painted a graphic illustration of how badly our government has been doing on the social services front. The major irony of it all is that the script of governmental degeneracy here was authored by an official whose ministry is at the forefront of accusing the media of demonising the country. To his credit though, Matonga did not blame the ramshackle state of the hospital on perceived Western sanctions because the mess has nothing to do with that.

In fact there are many hospitals like Mhondoro/Ngezi across the country. In Murehwa, the Health minister’s constituency, the district hospital is shockingly dilapidated. The only development I know of is a new mortuary, and how appropriate too!

Also featured on Newsnet in Musana communal lands in Mashonaland Central recently was a school where an ‘O’ level class has only one text book. The teacher there spends hours transcribing the book onto a chalk board for the poor students who have to bring bricks to sit on in the dusty “classroom”.

This is an embarrassment to a government that claims to have made “great strides” in health and education since Independence. In the campaigns for the two by-elections in Chikomba and Rushinga, voters were implored to vote for a party that brought “development” to the rural areas. I do not see much of that today. The infrastructure developed in the post-Independence era now stands as a sad reminder of a derelict regime which has wasted away assets in direct proportion to its increased autocracy and misgovernance.

Any government that fails to provide basic social services such as health, education and accommodation does not have the legitimacy to rule. The core business of a government is to provide those services and this should be reflected in expenditure of public funds. Our government is instead investing in instruments of power; buying military aircraft when hospitals do not have drugs and when students sit on bricks. The Reserve Bank in its infallible wisdom buys 305 cars to harvest old bank notes when the country is struggling to procure life stretching ARV drugs. Zimra taxes us to death and happily buys fleets of vehicles for its officers as if they produce anything for this economy. The monies collected from poor workers are then used to sponsor repression against producers and provide employment for the party faithful in ministries such as that of Public and Interactive Affairs.

Matonga’s Bright revelations about a sick Mhondoro/Ngezi hospital could be disingenuous from a government PR point of view, but we love it when politicians parade their own failure as if they should get a trophy for it.

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