Zimbabwe president opens clinic in election drive
August 2, 2023 11:13 PM
Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa opened a new medical clinic on Wednesday as he aims to portray himself as a go-getter ahead of a tense election where the ailing health system is a major priority.
The 80-year-old is seeking a second mandate on August 23 in a vote few observers think will be free and fair amid a crackdown on the opposition and dissenting voices.
In a country beset by corruption, poverty and joblessness, the collapse of health services ranks high among voters' top concerns in opinion polls.
Many Zimbabwean hospitals lack equipment for magnetic resonance, radiography, cancer treatment and other procedures, while medical staff have moved abroad in recent years due to poor working conditions and pay amid runaway inflation.
The new clinic opened by Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe's second-largest city Bulawayo is among 30 health facilities the government has previously said are being built with funding from Britain.
"I have opened a state-of-the-art clinic with a theatre, maternity and paediatric ward," he told thousands of supporters outside the facility in the impoverished suburb of Cowdray Park, an opposition stronghold like many urban areas.
The government was also refurbishing and expanding accommodation for medical staff at another hospital nearby, Mnangagwa said, wearing his trademark striped scarf in Zimbabwe's national colours.
A densely populated, sprawling northwestern township, Cowdray Park is Zimbabwe's second-biggest electoral ward in terms of voter numbers and lacks proper water and sewage systems.
Pointing at a stretch of new road leading to the clinic, which sat in stark contrast with the dusty, unpaved alleys surrounding it, Mnangagwa promised to bring economic revival if elected.
"Government has plans to revive industry in this city," he said.
But Bulawayo resident Moses Kumbweya dismissed the opening as "campaign gimmicks", blaming Mnangagwa for the dire state of the public health system.
- 'Beyond bricks and mortar' -
Government officials including Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga have been widely lampooned online for seeking medical treatment abroad in recent years.
"Beyond the bricks and mortar there should be deliberate policies that ensure that health professionals are adequately remunerated and that requisite equipment and medicines are available," said Henry Madzorera, a doctor and former health minister.
Madzorera is a member of the opposition Citizens' Coalition for Change (CCC), which is leading the challenge to Mnangagwa's ruling ZANU-PF -- in power since independence in 1980 -- in the vote to elect the president and legislature.
Last week, the CCC was left without any parliamentary candidate in Bulawayo after a court disqualified all of its would-be lawmakers.
The ruling, which is being appealed, benefited among others the ZANU-PF candidate for Cowdray Park, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, who critics say has presided over the country's economic collapse and sky-high inflation.