via Please act now, Mr President – DailyNews Live by Fungi Kwaramba 13 MARCH 2014
Zimbabwe’s service delivery sectors are on a death spiral that could produce a crisis, with hospitals in the intensive care unit, water getting scarcer and thousands of children dropping out of school, and increasingly desperate citizens being caught in the crossfire.
With social service delivery at an all-time low and unemployment rate sky-high, the situation according to social commentators, may provoke a showdown among the ruling Zanu PF party rivals.
The bloated, bankrupt State cannot sustain the social spending that kept the peace; the nation already faces water shortages, power outages, rising prostitution and rampant crime.
President Robert Mugabe “resoundingly won” elections in July last year, in what the MDC describes as a fraudulent victory.
Now the people want Mugabe to “resoundingly” fire all the incompetent ministers.
Most schools are in bad state.
His 26-member Cabinet’s mismanagement has only hastened the country’s decline — for example, 10 women die daily while giving birth.
Official figures say 960 women die per 100 000 live births.
Zimbabwe’s healthcare system was fully functional and more than able to meet the needs of the country.
The water reticulation system is in an appauling condition with sewage overflowing in most residential areas.
But thanks to heavy-handed, top-down authoritarianism of the ruling regime, the system has all but collapsed.
Patients are dying from easily treatable conditions and illnesses as the country’s economic slide is quickening.
Everything is in short supply: needles and syringes, paraffin used for biopsies in cancer diagnoses, drugs, operating room equipment, X-ray film, imaging paper, blood. You name it.
Weekly reports from the ministry of Health and Child Care, under minister David Parirenyatwa, continue to paint a grim picture — a sad reminder of 2008.
Frightening are the latest statistics, 12 466 common diarrhoeal cases were reported last week alone from across the country, and 24 people died from communicable diseases.
Twelve cases of medieval diseases such as typhoid have been reported across the country, as cash-strapped councils that were forced to scrap rates by Zanu PF in the run-up to the July 31, 2013 elections struggle to deliver water potable water to households, fail to collect refuse — which is now an eyesore — and also manage rivulets of sewerage.
Residents across the country are going for days with water.
Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights said although the new Constitution grants the right to health, Zimbabwe is still far from meeting its obligations because of a lack of commitment from the relevant authorities.
The appalling state of the country’s public hospitals is, according to Bonde, testimonial to the brain drain that has been caused by poor remuneration in the health sector where highly qualified doctors earn $283 a month.
“It is a capacity issue,” Bonde said.
“The senior health officials who trained us have since gone. When I was at medical school, I was well-mentored but now there are no mentors. How can you expect the medical staff to remain when they are poorly paid?”
For instance, in its 2014 Budget, the cash-strapped administration only allocated $24 million to health institutions but the amount was a pittance as it could hardly cover the $36,4 million health facilities owed to different suppliers.
“We are not seeing any investment from the State, the people are suffering,” Bonde said.
“Water is still a critical issue in Zimbabwe. Water is needed to ensure that we prevent diseases. We are in a state of emergency…we don’t want to go back to 2008.”
Large parts of Zimbabwe are without water with most areas plagued with water rationing.
Lack of money to buy treatment chemicals is the main cause of water shortages in cities countrywide, and minister Savior Kasukuwere is watching this unmitigated disaster unfold.
Critics accuse the Zanu PF government, in power for 34 years, of failing to properly invest in water provision, and there has been no plan so far outlined by Kasukuwere on how he hopes to curb this crisis.
Daily, residents wake up to dry taps and several main districts of Zimbabwe are affected.
People are stockpiling water in tanks, containers and bottles.
But some of the dry parts of the country are already dependent on emergency supplies of clean drinking water, or boreholes drilled by aid agencies.
Despite building plenty of new schools and clinics to poor areas, the government has failed to fix Zimbabwe’s housing shortfall — currently at over 3 million units.
That, say critics, demonstrates the failure of socialism in Zimbabwe.
Not surprisingly, Ignatious Chombo, minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, has sought to take the initiative with a new housing programme that has been hamstrung by funding shortfalls.
Even though Mugabe’s government promised to build houses for all by 2000, millions of Zimbabweans still do not have a decent home and are crammed in squatter camps such as Caledonia or Hopley farms where they live under squalid conditions.
In the education sector, the statistics are frightening. At least one million children could drop out of school because government does not have the money to bankroll the education of the economically vulnerable, who include children orphaned by the deadly Aids pandemic.
In its bid in the 2014 National Budget, the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had budgeted for $1,2 billion but only received $865 million.
Although this amounts to 20 percent of the total national budget, 95 percent of this figure will be channelled to cover employment costs, leaving about 3,3 percent to cover operational costs such as the provision of material resources and infrastructural development.
Under the Basic Education Assistance Model (Beam), government needs $73 million to pay school fees for orphans and disadvantaged children, but Ngoni Masoka, the permanent secretary in the Public Service ministry, told a parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Service Labour and Social Welfare recently that only $15 million was budgeted for Beam this fiscal year, a figure he said was grossly insufficient.
Ordinary Level and Advanced Level examination subsidies have been removed and millions face starvation because Social Welfare received only 5 percent of its budget.
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has led to massive job losses, making it impossible for growing numbers of parents to pay tuition fees. Unemployment now stands at 80 percent, and is rising as businesses continue to fold.
For those still employed in the formal sector, low wages have worsened a situation that is already desperate.
Munyaradzi Gwisai, leader of the International Socialist Organisation, says “the ruling class have turned to economic barbarism, neo-liberal austerity and authoritarianism to survive.”
The result, he said, were savage attacks on education, health, farmers, and jobs.
With the country’s economy on a slide, Gwisai predicted an eruption of the masses in anger.
“(There is need) to mobilise for action to force government to pay the 26 percent wage increment this March and for the jailing of thieving parastatal bosses and ministers,” Gwisai said.
“Key also are the parastatal and local authority workers.”
Gwisai said there was need for “bigger, united boycotts, demonstrations and strikes supported by labour forums, student forums, vendors forums and residents forums on a non-party basis, demanding PDL wages, stopping the demolition of houses, full rights for the informal sector, right to education, health for all, a national health scheme to replace Psmas and a big No to neo-liberal reforms of labour laws.”