A few days ago I woke up to the news that WHO (World Health Organization) had appointed President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs ( Noncommunicable diseases) in Africa. I tried to look at the wisdom – or lack of it – and was left puzzled by the decision. I decided to hold my horses and follow the debate .
I tried to look back to my days of primary school education. We had students who were appointed by the headmaster or headmistress to be head-boys or head-girls because of their terrible characters. The thinking behind such appointments was that these students would feel compelled to change and become good students. What baffled me was that, in such cases, the whole school was neglected, at the expense of trying to change one student instead of appointing role models that the majority of students would look up to and change their bad behaviour.
Could it be the same reason why President Mugabe was appointed in the first place?
WHO appointment versus Mugabe reputation
WHO has got all the evidence it needs that shows the health system in Zimbabwe leaves a lot to be desired. What Goodwill does Zimbabwe have? What Goodwill does President Mugabe have that will help in the fight to end or reduce NCDs? Goodwill is earned and is not just assumed. Reputation is a relevant factor in determining Goodwill and in this case President Mugabe is found wanting as far as NCDs are concerned.
Is it true that President Mugabe was appointed because the WHO Director General was also appointed to the WHO post after the recommendation by the African Union, which is chaired by Mugabe? It is also alleged that President Mugabe personally signed the reference for the Ethiopian born WHO Director General. If it is true, does it mean then that he was now returning a favour?
Inept leadership at WHO
The appointment without any doubt shows lack of leadership on the part of the WHO Director General. This chaos could have been prevented and the evidence is overwhelming that Zimbabwe and President Mugabe do not fit the role of WHO Goodwill Ambassador. What baffles everyone is how he was appointed in the first place . This is a sign of poor judgement and can bring the reputation of WHO into disrepute. Anyway we all make mistakes and our leadership skills are seen in how we handle our oversights. In this case the WHO Director General has made the right decision but it must not end there.
Way forward for Zimbabwe
Now that it is obvious the health system in Zimbabwe is not fit for purpose and cannot be used as a role model what happens next ? We should not only celebrate that President Mugabe has been removed from this role. We should celebrate that our suffering has been recognised and that we cannot lead in the fight for NCDs because we need help. You cannot ask even the greatest fighter who is in Intensive care unit to go and fight the weakest fighter. That greatest fighter is useless while in ICU. The same applies to Zimbabwe’s health system. It is in ICU and needs help. We now need to see dedicated effort earmarked for Zimbabwe to make sure that the health system makes a quick recovery from ICU.
How Mugabe can redeem himself
We do not want to celebrate this and forget that we have people in Zimbabwe who are struggling to access safe and effective health services. I would be rejoicing if this publicity result in our healthcare system getting the help it needs. It is sad that we have some of our fellow Zimbabweans who were rejoicing when this obvious mistake was made. What is there to celebrate in Zimbabwe about our healthcare system? It is not rocket science that our healthcare system needs urgent help. That help must come now not tomorrow and President Mugabe must fix it, if ever he is to get any recognition as far as our heath is concerned.