Stark consequences of a failed leadership

If anyone ever needed evidence of the Zanu PF government’s shocking maladministration which has transcended the realm of mere incompetence and now poses grave danger to national survival, the spectacular collapse of Harare Central Hospital must surely fit the bill.

Candid Comment Brezhnev Malaba
bmalaba@zimind.co.zw

In the dramatic madhouse which Zimbabwe has become, not many things can shock the long-suffering citizens anymore.

But even by our low standards, nobody was quite prepared for such a shocker.

Just the other week, we thought we had seen it all — after it was revealed that Ingutsheni Central Hospital, a psychiatric centre in Bulawayo, had run out of anti-psychotic drugs to calm down mental patients. As unstable patients ran amok, nurses and visitors were left in mortal peril. It is trite knowledge that in the absence of anti-psychotic medication, a psychiatric hospital morphs into a dangerous prison where reality is inverted and the abnormal is normalised — a fitting metaphor for today’s Zimbabwe.

Some statistics can indict an entire government and this is one of them: up to 98% of all medicines in state hospitals are from foreign donors. And yet there is no free treatment. When you realise that 72% of Zimbabwe’s population lives in extreme poverty, the magnitude of the crisis hits you like a freight train.

These are the stark consequences of economic mismanagement and leadership failure. Thirty-six years after Independence, only 11% of Zimbabwean children between the ages of six and 23 months receive a minimum acceptable diet. One-third suffer chronic malnutrition and are stunted. This preventable calamity condemns more than 15 000 children to an early grave — every year.

When President Robert Mugabe falls ill, he takes a tonne of cash in public funds, boards AirZim One and flies off to the ultra-modern hospitals of Singapore. To a poverty-stricken Zimbabwean — in other words most of us — illness spells sure death.

Do we still have a government? How does Harare Hospital, one of the largest facilities catering to the impoverished masses, run out of essential drugs and suspend surgical operations? Amid this precipitous economic decline, Mugabe and his bloated entourage have the audacity to squander millions of dollars on a taxpayer-funded junket to a talkshop in New York City.

Is Mugabe telling this nation that although money for his endless foreign trips is always readily available, there is no funding for public hospitals? We must ask: whose interests is this government serving?

The time has come to tell the Zimbabwean government that mismanaging public funds is not just a corruption problem — it’s a huge security threat.

Professor Assis Malaquias from the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies has identified the source of the malady: “Resources are always limited, even for advanced countries, but the problem in Africa is not resources per se. The problem is their misuse.”

Investing in health is not an act of charity; it saves lives and benefits the economy.