16 August 2017
HARARE – Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa had to be airlifted to South
Africa last week to receive urgent medical assistance following suspected
Mnangagwa fell ill in Gwanda, where he was attending President Robert
Mugabe’s sixth youth interface meeting. He initially received medical
attention at Claybank and Thornhill hospitals, before it was felt he
needed to be airlifted to South Africa to get the best medical care.
Mnangagwa is not the only Zimbabwean politician to seek sanctuary in
foreign hospitals. It is now standard practice for the elite in Zanu PF
and Mugabe’s government to spent the elusive greenbacks seeking medical
care in the region and offshore because they have no longer trust local
In the process, Zimbabwe is rendered poorer because this is money that
could have been spent locally to assuage a crippling foreign currency
crisis gripping the country’s economy.
Even members of the opposition parties, including MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, have joined the bandwagon because the health delivery system
in Zimbabwe now resembles a death trap.
While the well-to-do in our midst are escaping the dire conditions in our
local hospitals, those who cannot afford these expensive medical trips
beyond the country’s borders – and they happen to be the majority of
Zimbabweans – are putting up with depressing conditions in our health
Several people have died even from treatable conditions because they
cannot access basic drugs, while others succumb to their sickness before
being attended to, having failed to raise the consultation fees.
Zimbabwe used to have arguably the best healthcare system on the continent
until something went terribly wrong in the early to mid 1990s.
A combination of populist policies, economic mismanagement, as well as
their intended and unintended consequences conspired to rob the health
sector of its shine. For many years, government has entertained the false
notion that it can give Zimbabweans access to public health at close to
next to nothing without following its generosity with structured
investments into the sector to keep up the standards. And when the sector
started buckling in, government has not accepted responsibility for its
The result has been the loss of skill to the Diaspora, the decline in
donor funding and the calamitous collapse in public health institutions.
It would be unfair to blame Tsvangirai and other members of the opposition
for seeking medical help outside the country’s borders because the
situation is not of their making, although Zanu PF often accuse them of
inviting sanctions – cited by Mugabe and his party as having triggered the
on-going economic crisis.
Having said that, the elite in Zanu PF must be ashamed for insulating
themselves from a crisis they have created, while exposing the millions of
ordinary Zimbabweans to terrible conditions in the health delivery sector.