Chemist Siziba, a pioneering telecoms expert, once told me a simple home truth which can be applied to many facets of everyday life.
Candid Comment,Brezhnev Malaba
“If you tell me that you have a PhD, that’s fine, I hope it makes you feel better about yourself. But can you tell me something: with this doctorate of yours, are you able to make a simple chair or a table, on your own? I’m not asking for anything sophisticated; just an ordinary chair. Can you make a simple chair that we can use right now?” It is an interesting way of looking at life.
Whenever Siziba relates this amusing anecdote, people go into spasms of laughter.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Let’s face it, if you cannot mend a simple pothole, your seven university degrees are useless to me. Surely, education should impart a sense of utility that goes beyond hollow boasts about the number of university degrees one has amassed.
Nqaba Matshazi, a colleague, has observed that Zimbabweans are clinging on to the bygone accolade of “Africa’s most literate nation” like a drunkard who stubbornly refuses to let go of an empty gin bottle, long after the wise waters have run dry.
This week, the growing trend of African leaders leaving their countries to seek medical attention abroad sparked heated debate across the continent.
In social media discussions, the burning question was: Why don’t African leaders build world-class hospitals at home instead of blowing taxpayers’ money on overseas treatment?
This week alone, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe flew overseas to seek treatment. Buhari went to London on Sunday for “follow-up medical tests”, less than two months after an extended medical break in Britain. Mugabe left for Singapore on Monday for what the government has described as a “routine medical check-up”.
Nigeria and Zimbabwe have produced some of the world’s top medical experts, but because the governments are hopelessly inept, these brains are benefitting Western populations instead of serving the people who need them most back home.
Everyone deserves the best medical care and Mugabe is no exception. But can you imagine the public goodwill he could generate through the simple but powerful gesture of channelling the money he spends on his foreign trips to the upgrading of Harare Central Hospital? Just a fifth of the US$36 million he spent on foreign trips in the first 10 months of last year would have been enough to transform the hospital.
African countries spend a lot on education. The tragedy is that after attaining crucial qualifications, the top-notch doctors, engineers, lecturers and lawyers are forced to leave their home countries and settle in nations where they are assured a better quality of life.
There is no better definition of leadership failure.
If Harare Central Hospital is not up to scratch, it is the government’s responsibility to rectify that. Indeed, if the specialists are not good enough, again, it is the responsibility of the leaders to facilitate the requisite training. After all, we can’t all be presidents and every citizen deserves world-class healthcare.