Do as I say, not as I do: Mugabe prefers overseas medical treatment

Posted on | maart 8, 2011 | No Comments

While for many ordinary Zimbabweans getting Panadol (a pain relief medication), is a luxury they cannot afford, Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe’s ruler for the past 30 years) just in one year managed to fly to Singapore four times for medical check ups. Mugabe’s fourth and recent visit was last Thursday, a visit Mr. Charamba, his spokesperson, touted as “a medical examination after undergoing routine cataract surgery in Singapore in January.” “There is nothing to cause any alarm over Mugabe’s health,” Mr Charamba added. Well, the 87 year old Mugabe’s health may cause nothing to be concerned about, but when the president, the country’s first citizen, seeks medical attention abroad instead of in his own country then there is indeed a cause for concern!

Yes, by virtue of being the president, Mugabe may have the privilege to seek the best medical treatment, but what he is failing to see is the relationship between him seeking medical treatment abroad and his governing style! There is a direct link between Zimbabwe’s dictatorial governance with the country’s dilapidated public health system. The ironic, and yet sad, part of Mugabe traveling to Asia to seek medical treatment is that the Zimbabwean health system used to be one of the most efficient and admired systems in Africa (if not the world) when Mugabe was democratic (or so we thought). Now, since he turned into an autocrat, that system completely collapsed, with many hospital facilities having to shut down.

Mugabe is not alone in seeking medical attention abroad, but he is carrying on the ancient African presidential (ministers and senior politicians too!) tradition that boils down to “do as I say, not as I do.” The late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua spent most of his last days abroad for medical reasons. The same story goes for former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa who has his share of spending time abroad in search of better health care. In Africa’s Ghana, after having been involved in an auto accident in 2008, former president Kufuor flew abroad for a thorough medical check-up. So did his predecessor Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills, the current president. In Togo, President Gnassingbe Eyadema died while being evacuated for medical treatment abroad. In Zambia, ex-President Frederick Chiluba asked the court (at his corruption trial) to allow him travel to neighboring South Africa for medical treatment.

The list goes on, and on. Why? Apparently, Africa’s dysfunctional health systems are bad not just for the ordinary citizens, but for the presidents too!

AUTHOR: Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah
URL: http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/
E-MAIL: Ndumba.Kamwanyah [at] umb.edu

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