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Archive for November, 2008

Entitlement gone wrong

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Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 by Susan Pietrzyk

The other day I woke up and my phone didn’t work.  I’m a lucky Harare resident who’s had next to no problems with my line; thus, I’m not used to having a non-functioning phone.  I was sure a big mess and stress would ensue to get the line working again.  But it was also a troublesome feeling, this idea of being used to the possibility that basic services can come to an end.  I didn’t bother to wait it out and had no luck phoning because ironically Tel One’s phones never seem to work.  Instead, I marched myself down to Tel One so I could start my lobbying to get my line fixed.  Once there, I was told it was a city-wide problem being fixed and that my line would be working soon.  I so did not believe this.  Having gotten used to the fact anything and everything might stop working at any given point.  Having gotten used to the fact that people such as Tel One representatives might stretch the truth and tell customers what they want to hear.  But alas. When I got home, my phone was working. I was happy about that, but sad about what I’ve gotten used to.

One encounter during the walk home strengthened my thoughts around accepting what I’ve gotten used to.  A pedestrian engineered himself into my route. As expected the same old ridiculous conversation came my way.  Not even a greeting from this man, just the usual.  Where do you stay?  Can I get your phone number? I want you to marry me.  A persistence occurs that is out of this world unbelievable.  No matter whether I provide polite, engaging, rude, witty, silent, or whatever response, some men believe it’s ok to ask random strangers these questions and if they’re asking, I guess they’re holding hope that one day a random female pedestrian will say:  Yes, let’s go now to the chapel and get married, but first you better tell me your name.

I’ve gotten used to this.

So there it is.  Two vignettes.  One where what I’m used to did not come to be. And another where what I’m used to did come to be.  Everybody navigates all the possible outcomes concerning what one is used to, but for Zimbabweans seems it’s become a more complex navigation, one which disrupts the patience and confidence to assert rights around what citizens are entitled to.  In turn, potentially disrupting the ways people understand and practice the broader concept of entitlement.  Citizens are entitled to services such as phone lines, running water, and electricity.  For the many Zimbabweans who don’t regularly receive these services, this can brew into frustration and anger. People become complacent and get used to things.  I can’t help but wonder where the frustration and anger goes?

Certainly the male pedestrian I encountered is operating in a deeply historical, layered cultural, and unjust mind set which makes him feel he’s entitled to have power over women.  Yet I have this sneaking suspicion there’s a link with respect to the degree to which basic services (or entitlements) are denied and the persistent pursuit of at least being or feeling entitled to something.  This is to suggest that perhaps, to a degree, some men subconsciously feel that something such as having to just shrug your shoulders and accept a broken phone line becomes a threat to their masculinity because what they are entitled to has been taken away.  In turn, the frustration and anger is misplaced and this propels even greater desire to assert entitlement for something, such as power over women.

Hospitals of death

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Sunday, November 9th, 2008 by Catherine Makoni

We have a serious problem with our health delivery system in Zimbabwe. It has stopped delivering health. It has been delivering death. Between February 08 and August 08, 120 people have died as a result of cholera. Everyone acknowledges that this is a direct result of the breakdown in the system. The latest evidence of the breakdown is that most major hospitals have stopped admitting patients. This is because of a combined shortage of medicines, other medical supplies and staff to administer these. This disaster has been presided over by David Parirenyatwa. He is a medical doctor. I am strong proponent of people taking responsibility for their actions or omissions. I have been doing some digging in relation to the ethical responsibilities of doctors. I would guess that most if not all of them take some form of oath when starting their practice. My assumption is that  David Parirenyatwa at some point in his life took an oath pledging the following or at least a variation of the following:

  • To consecrate his life in the service of humanity
  • To practice his profession with conscience and dignity, with the health of his patient being his first consideration
  • To maintain by all means his power, the honor and noble traditions of the medical profession
  • Not to permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between his duty and his patient
  • To maintain the utmost respect for human life from time of conception, even under threat

The Minister of Health has been at the helm of the Ministry for a number of years now. During this time, the health system has declined to the point where today, hospitals are turning away patients or have become dens of death.  To make it worse we now hear allegations that some US$7.3 million from the Global Fund meant for HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other communicable diseases has been misappropriated by the Reserve Bank. I know definitely that presiding over a crumbling health delivery system is not in the service of humanity.

The oath exhorts medical doctors not to permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between his duty and his patient. Has the Minister not violated all that? Health in Zimbabwe is now a preserve of the rich. That is permitting social standing to come between the doctor and his patient. ZANU PF and its faithful have worked to amass wealth and power at the expense of the sick. Their direct policies and actions have led to the collapse of the system and the flight enmasse of doctors, nurses and lab scientists. During the recent elections, those wounded and requiring medical attention were denied it on the grounds of suspected party affiliation. Now has the good doctor not allowed party politics to come between him and his patients?

Now given that he has been in ZANU PF for a while, l find l cannot say what his conscience is telling him about the state of hospitals and the many deaths recorded and unrecorded in this country as a result of the collapse of the health system. I am not sure what his conscience has been telling him about the misappropriation of Global Fund money meant for the vulnerable of this country. I’m sure if he had been practicing his profession in good conscience and with dignity, he would have resigned from office before now. The honour and noble traditions of his profession demand no less.

Just for interest sake, is the Minister a member of the World Medical Association? Their website tells me that “Active members or employees of organisations and organisations which undermine the basic human rights with their intentions or in their practical activity cannot be members of the WORLD MEDICAL ASSOCIATION”

It’s just ridiculous

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 by Catherine Makoni

A domestic worker earns who earns the equivalent of USD10.00 per month was paid by her employer Z$100,000,000,000.00 (100 trillion dollars at the parallel market rate).

With October’s cash withdrawal limit of $50,000.00 per day she would need to go to the bank 2,000,000 times (that’s two million days) in order to access all her salary.

With the current withdrawal limit of $500,000.00 per day she will have to go to the bank 200,000 times (that’s two hundred thousand days).

We do not have that many days in a year.

Now we all know that Mumbengegwi and his Prime Minister Gono (aka Governor of the Central Bank of Zimbabwe) have failed. But what l want to know from Hon Tendai Biti, who is the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Secretary for Finance and Economics, is this, what do you think about this situation and in the first 100 days in office, what will you do to change this? I really would like to know what concrete plans the MDC has to get us out of this mess as they go for the weekend talks in South Africa.

And please, enough of touting the “unlocking donor funding” spiel.

This is just ridiculous.

How does the man called Gono sleep at night?

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 by Natasha Msonza

So the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria did an audit on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and discovered that £4.5 million of the £65 million grant money allocated to Zimbabwe was no where to be found. They are demanding the money back, and rightly so.

Mr Gono is understood to have said the money was diverted “for other national priorities”. Just when you thought the regime had their fill of looting, they sink even lower.

But it is no secret where the money was diverted to. The Mugabe government has spent a fortune importing tractors, combine harvesters, limousines, plasma televisions and a range of other expensive items. These were handed out to Mr Mugabe’s cronies, magistrates and others, while cash was used to bribe voters.

If ever the ICC needed an excuse to haul somebody before its grand courts, now is the time. I think the greatest crime against humanity is deliberately denying individuals, and a whole nation in our case – the opportunity for better health care and leaving them to die from preventable diseases.

How does the man called Gono sleep at night?

That Gono has so far returned  $7.3 million of the money is also of no consequence. This is a complete outrage and we as the beneficiaries of that fund and the rest of the global community must ensure that this does not happen again. This regime has been allowed to trample us underfoot for too long. We demand proper accountability for that money, not the shallow diversion Gono gave yesterday when he said:  “Only cheap minds would go as far as to suggest that the money was used to buy tractors and TV sets.”

Oh Really?

Paging Doctor Madzorera!

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 by Catherine Makoni

Seeking the shadow minister for health from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mr Minister, 120 people have died from cholera in Zimbabwe in the period between February and August 2008. They were not beaten to death at some party base, but l would still call theirs death from political violence.

In February, l am told, Parirenyatwa Hospital stopped all surgical operations because the hospital had run out of theatre supplies. Now this and other hospitals in the country including Harare Central and Chitungwiza have stopped all admissions because there are no drugs and there is no staff. I already know that the present Minister has failed. If you are the alternative, what have you been doing about disaster that is our health delivery system? Do you have a plan for solving these problems, say in the first 100 days of office? How about letting us know some of those plans so that we know you are capable of solving this emergency? In the meantime, how about saying something about the needless loss of life as a result of cholera? How about visit Budiriro and Glen View and Glen Norah just so the people know whose side you are on? Or does the MDC only talk to the people at election time?


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Friday, November 7th, 2008 by Bev Clark

It does not require a majority to prevail,
but rather an irate, tireless minority
keen to set brush fires in
people’s minds.
- Samuel Adams