Eric Chiriga 9 January 2018
HARARE – Barely two months after President Emmerson Mnangagwa dramatically
succeeded long-ruling 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, the new dispensation has
made numerous pronouncements.
From giving looters of national resources a three-month ultimatum to
return the loot, to making moves to retire the old guard from civil
Even officials long-suspected of corruption and criminal abuse of office –
the likes of former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo et al – are facing
Apart from that, among the many moves, Mnangagwa and team also moved
swiftly to announce that they will revamp and do away with State
enterprises which have become nothing but parasites and a burden to the
They even engaged exiled Zimbabwean business people to chart ways of
jointly mending the broken economy.
Seems and sounds so refreshingly progressive.
But there was one recent pronouncement which made Zimbabweans fear a
repeat of the past – all talk and no action, and lack sincerity and
About a week ago, the Mnangagwa administration announced the scrapping of
maternity fees along with children aged five years and below getting
medical treatment for free.
To some, the policy could have sounded new, but it was not. Not at all.
And it disappointed many, in the know, long-suffering Zimbabweans who are
yearning for a different leadership approach.
They don’t want announcements, but action. During Mugabe’s 37-year rule,
free maternity service and medical attention for under-fives was
introduced. The policy was merely pronounced, without the necessary
administrative and statutory backing.
Typical of Mugabe’s government, the policy was populist, and highly-likely
announced without conducting the necessary consultation and research on
its feasibility, impact and consequences on the already struggling health
At the end the day, though noble – a significant number of the 14
million-plus population cannot afford medical insurance and have no safety
nets, the policy was not of much benefit. It merely became a populist
policy, which not only lacked sincerity and political will, but fluttered
the burdened crowds, then.
That is why there was outrage after the new government came to the people
announcing the same policy again. The people’s argument is simple.
Zimbabwe’s health sector, particularly public, is in the doldrums. The
public health sector has been grossly underfunded for years.
In the 2018 National Budget, government allocated a fraction of the $1
billion-plus desperately needed by the sector.
For years, donors and other well-wishers have always come to the rescue.
Due to the crippling challenges, public hospitals have been incapacitated,
forcing poor patients to turn to the private health institutions where
punitively steep fees turn them away.
According to health experts, the private health institutions cannot afford
to foot the costs incurred in providing free maternity and child care.
Though they charge unjustifiably high fees, in this case, they will need
some form of subsidy from government to cushion them.
And the government has no capacity to provide that. After considering all
this, one starts questioning whether government was well-meaning in
announcing the health policy yet again.
Zimbabweans – fed up of empty, unfulfilled and broken promises – strongly
feel focus ought to be on enforcement.
Due to lack of proper interrogation of policies – particularly their
feasibility and practicality – the poor have continued suffer. This has
made people very sceptical.
Just like on the threat to nab looters of national resources, it’s hard to
believe the culprits will be brought to book because in the past, many
threats were made, which saw even the establishment of the Zimbabwe
Anti-Corruption Corruption, but no prosecution was made.
And of course the many unfulfilled promises – creation of 2,2 million
jobs, housing for the low income earners and better minerals revenue
accountability – made in the much-hyped Zanu PF ZimAsset document, taught
many a lesson.
Free maternity and child care or not, it remains the same Zanu PF, and
people are expecting a totally different approach.