HEALTH minister Obadiah Moyo was yesterday ambushed by Masvingo demonstrators protesting the lack of drugs and the continued doctors’ strike at major hospitals.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU/TAPIWA ZIVIRA
The incident occurred as the minister was reading his speech at the commemorations of the World Aids Day at Mucheke Stadium in Masvingo.
With a banner inscribed with the words, “Communities need doctors and drugs”, the handful protesters lay on the ground in front of Moyo and other dignitaries, diverting all attention, leaving the minister red-faced and shocked.
Health ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri tried to calm the situation by going to the protesters and telling them he had organised a meeting for them with the minister, but they stayed put until Moyo finished his speech.
Some of the protesters were people living with HIV and Aids who said they were demonstrating against lack of second-line treatment as well as viral load-testing machines across the country.
One of the protesters, Moreni Masanzu, who is the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) provincial vice-chairperson, said they had tried to engage the minister several times, but they were spurned.
“We tried several times to arrange a meeting with the minister to no avail. So we realised this is the only chance we can get close to him and air our views,” she said in an interview afterwards.
“People living with HIV and Aids have no second-line treatment, which is not available in the country. Some of the drugs that are there are very expensive and out of reach of many. Many people living with HIV and Aids are also dying from opportunistic infections.”
Masanzu said their protest was successful as officials from the ministry had said the minister would have a meeting with them.
The Aids and Arts Foundation (TAAF) Zimbabwe national co-ordinator Emmanual Gasa said there was nothing to celebrate on the commemoration of the International World Aids Day when the public health system is in shambles.
“People are not getting drugs as well as healthcare at hospitals. This is a national outcry that government needs to address. Hospitals are now death traps, instead of being places where people get help,” he said.
The theme for the 2019 World Aids Day commemoration was Communities Make a Difference.
United States deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Thomas Hastings, who was also present at the commemorations, said he wished the impasse between government and striking doctors could be resolved soon for the good of the suffering patients.
“The stand-off between the doctors and the government is something that I hope will be resolved for the good of the people,” he said.
Moyo refused to comment over the protests, and his security team barred journalists from interviewing him .