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New Health minister Chiwenga faces tall order

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has finally replaced the dismissed and corruption-tainted Health minister Obadiah Moyo with his deputy, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga to the portfolio. Zimbabweans have expressed reservations over the appointment of Chiwenga to the critical portfolio, not without a cause, but because the last time the VP “took action” to resolve the health crisis, he fired the entire health workforce for going on strike. Government has maintained that hardline stance with its disgruntled health workers and the results are catastrophic. The country is still paying for his ham-fisted approach to the crisis and his being accorded the full-time role to resolve the problems does not bode well. Will he use the same failed guerrilla tactics on the health workers, further worsening the situation instead of calling for genuine dialogue and honest reaction? What is clear is that Zanu PF and its leaders do not dialogue, but are much more comfortable with adopting a scorched-earth policy, as Zimbabwe’s broken political and economic landscapes can testify. The results are never pretty. Chiwenga himself has been regularly flying out of the country to China, India and South Africa to receive medical care, something that Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said qualified him to be a Health minister because of his experience as a patient in various hospitals in different countries. So, if Chiwenga was indeed on attachment in those hospitals, he should have drawn many lessons and should now realise the importance of having the same facilities back home. It will make bad reading in the future to have such headlines like “Health minister flies out for treatment”. We hope Chiwenga will now be conciliatory in his engagement with the health workers after past experience taught him that force when dealing with skilled professionals was not a feasible solution. Chiwenga’s immediate task is to get the doctors and nurses back at work, ensure that they have adequate personal protective clothing and they are well paid. The decision by his boss to pay soldiers and police officers well in the midst of a pandemic is not well thought-out. The new Health minister should bargain with the doctors to go back to work and save the country, there is carnage in hospitals, Mr Vice-President. People are dying of avoidable cause, there is need for quick intervention. The hospitals need drugs and skilled personnel, otherwise, without functioning hospitals, the country will continue to lose skilled workers to COVID-19 and other ailments that the government seems to have ignored. There is a huge challenge lying ahead of the new minister and the earlier he sobers up, the better for the people and his reputation.

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