WHEN nurses downed their tools in April protesting the shortage of essential medicine and consumables in public health institutions while also demanding an improvement in their working conditions, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga pulled the trigger and fired them.
Candid Comment Owen Gagare
A total of 15 000 nurses were dismissed at one go, forcing the majority to reapply for their jobs. It is ironic, isn’t it, that six months later Chiwenga has unfortunately fallen ill and, as if to confirm that the state of health institutions in Zimbabwe is indeed parlous, he sought treatment in South Africa?
It was indeed good seeing Chiwenga (may he recover quickly) fly back into the country on Wednesday — by private jet — after receiving treatment for the undisclosed illness afflicting him.
Speaking after Chiwenga’s arrival, Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet George Charamba revealed Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo flew to South Africa on Tuesday for a medical review.
Chiwenga and Moyo are following an all-too-familiar trend of senior government officials seeking treatment outside Zimbabwe.
In June, Vice-President Kembo Mohadi and Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri were airlifted to the neighbouring country after being injured in an explosion at White City Stadium in Bulawayo. They were initially attended at the Roman Catholic-run Mater Dei Hospital, while their bodyguards were rushed to the ill-equipped Mpilo Central Hospital where Mohadi’s aide Nelson Dube and Colour Sergeant Stanley Kudakwashe Mugunzva, of the army’s presidential guard unit, eventually died.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, then former president Robert Mugabe’s deputy, was airlifted to South Africa for treatment after suspected poisoning at a rally in Gwanda in September last year. It’s a well-trodden path. Mugabe’s excursions to the Far East — where he received treatment at Glean Eagles Hospital, a former luxurious hotel turned into a medical centre—are well known. But while they purport to be patriotiots, our leaders have always shown a penchant for foreign facilities and comforts.
Most of them seek treatment at top-notch facilities outside Zimbabwe. It’s not only about treatment. Most officials’ children go to reputable universities abroad instead of local institutions, whose credibility is being undermined through the scandalous granting of degrees through political influence.
The majority shop outside the country and have a taste for foreign brands, which most downtrodden Zimbabweans can only dream of. Thanks to the taxpayers, top government officials can afford the lavish lifestyles which they are denying the majority because of their ruinous policies.
But while top officials access quality health facilities abroad and enjoy overseas holidays, ordinary Zimbabweans have to contend with dilapidated local health institutions, where basic drugs such as painkillers are often in short supply. They can’t dream of holidays.
If they cared and were as patriotic as they claim, our leaders would invest their energies in rebuilding Zimbabwe to get local services instead of going to foreign lands.