By Tendai Chabvuta
So the furore in Zimbabwe’s health sector continues. Doctors have been fired by the Government of Zimbabwe. Patients continue perishing in government hospitals and at their homes and the government unashamedly blames the striking doctors.
Hospitals continue suffering from lack of funding, basics such as syringes and gloves let alone electricity and the ZANU PF sons and daughters continue to receive treatment in posh hospitals in South Africa, China, Singapore, India and any other place they can get “the best” of medical care.
Recently Mthuli Ncube, the beleaguered Finance Minister was at pains trying to sell his proposed “2020 Pre -Budget Parliamentary Consultation Meetings; October 30 to November 4, 2019” to Parliament. In proportion and relevance, the budget proposal has more money for every other useless budget line and little for the health docket.
This is not a coincidence. It is deliberate. ZANU PF does not make mistakes, especially when it comes to money. But that is a digression.
The real reason why the ZANU PF government in Zimbabwe cannot see itself prioritizing the health docket is because they strongly believe that Zimbabweans actually do not have any health problems except for when they are poisoned or bewitched.
The theory of poisoning as a health policy problem in Zimbabwe.
Look at this way. ED was reportedly poisoned with ice cream and he was saved in South Africa. They say Zimbabwe’s number 2 has been in China for the better part of 2019 because apparently he too was poisoned. In fact most of the who is who in ZANU PF who have been or are currently sick have reportedly been poisoned.
There are so many other clowns in the political arena both opposition and ruling party who continue peddling stories about them being poisoned as if it is a badge of honor. It could be true and it could also just be hogwash from a paranoid regime that sees shadows everywhere it turns.
The real concern for Zimbabweans should not be that these ZANU PF people are sick or they have been poisoned. This is for the simple reason that such matters are more of security problems that should be addressed by the CID and even military intelligence.
What should concern Zimbabweans more is that these people and their families are spending taxpayers money treating their “poisoned” diseases in foreign lands when public hospitals in Zimbabwe suffer from deadly funding challenges which are deliberately caused by a reckless and carefree ZANU PF leadership.
Poisoning myths and witchcraft crowd out health funding and research
One of the biggest policy problems with leadership that has a mentality which puts conspiracy theories of witchcraft and poisoning to the fore is that they would rather put aside money meant for public health to their emergency kitties for when they would need to fly out for medical help.
We all know how much private jets cost; private and military hospitals overseas do not come cheap, moreover the upkeep of these peoples’ families overseas is quite dear. Parliament by now should have been asking how much exactly is being spent on all the political leaders who have been taken overseas for medical care on the taxpayers’ ticket.
That money could have been used to fund research into diseases afflicting our people or to buy much needed equipment or even build new hospitals. Others have suggested the same money could be injected into industry and help boost the economy so that health workers, teachers and in fact all civil servants will have better salaries.
Poisoning myths create perceptions and beliefs that Zimbabweans do not get sick
At a social level and more dangerously, the myths and beliefs perpetuated by this ZANU PF regime led by ED is that Zimbabweans especially men do not get sick or encounter medical problems naturally but in fact only get sick because of poisoning and witchcraft. Take cancer for example.
It is a fact that most men after they hit 40 become susceptible to prostate cancer. Others are affected by other cancers for different reasons. Now, if one looks at most of the men and people who have been reported sick in Zimbabwe and flown overseas, one notices a common narrative that they are sick because they were poisoned for their political activities.
For a gullible society, this dissuades people from asking the right questions about why the pubic health system is not funded properly by government. It becomes difficult to ask why there isn’t serious funding for research into cancer and other diseases?
Fundamentally, and at a social level, the risk of having ordinary citizens thinking that diseases such as the different cancers do not exist could become rather high.
The concomitant effect becomes that people do not get tested, nor will they get treatment because in their minds Zimbabweans do not get sick – they only get sick when poisoned. Worse still the belief becomes that even if one were to get sick the hospitals and medical personnel are not equipped to deal with such health problems so why bother.
Mental health problems dismissed as emanating from witchcraft
Recently there was an exchange between two political socialites on the twitter streets. Obert Gutu seemingly chastised Hopewell Chin’ono arguing that he had a mental problem and it was a problem running in his family. Perceptions about mental health in Zimbabwe are well known.
“People go crazy because they get bewitched!” – is the default understanding. Such jibes on social media coming from such enlightened folks continue unabated and are seemingly turned into political fights and defense mechanisms attacking the personal rather than the issues brought to the fore. It is understandable but must not be tolerated especially in a country with such high poverty levels and extreme cases of political motivated and state sponsored violence.
People have and will have serious mental health problems because of depression, post traumatic stress disorders and just sheer desperation of trying to make ends meet in a perilous country like Zimbabwe where there are no jobs, hospitals are closed, food is expensive, salaries for those who work are very low and yet those in government continue to live lavishly.
The Finance Minister must know that Zimbabwe’s health system needs more resources to deal with problems such as mental health as a matter of urgency and not think that these are problems emanating from families or witchcraft. Resources need to be set aside to train more caregivers, psycho social analysts and others who can deal with mental health matters.
ZANU PF’s poisoned and bewitched health policies will not work
The problems at stake with regards health policy and funding in Zimbabwe are centered around the ZANU PF people’s way of thinking. They strongly believe that poisoning and witchcraft are the causes of their ill health and by implication all of Zimbabwe.
This disastrous way of thinking is finding itself in the ZANU PF government’s policy and must be curbed forthwith. The opposition in parliament needs to put more pressure to get more information on how much is being spent on the ZANU PF chefs who are sitting pretty in overseas hospitals and they must demand that the same people be returned to Zimbabwe unless they are footing their own bills. The matter of poisoning of politicians in Zimbabwe must stop being a national matter but must be relegated to be a ZANU PF internal matter for that is what it is.
It is an extension of the coup and succession politics and none of the general Zimbabwean’s problem. In any case, if ZANU PF feels that this matter has gone out of hand because of the so-called “Third Force” then they must ask the intelligence and police force to investigate and have it stopped forthwith.
It cannot be right that the nation’s resources meant for health care are enjoyed by a few who create their own health problems from poisoning each other and beliefs of witchcraft. ZANU PF continues to fail.