THE First Lady Grace Mugabe was last week flown to Dubai for treatment of an ailment suspected to be colon cancer. In January, she underwent surgery in Singapore, a place President Mugabe is also a regular health tourist. Critics have condemned the first family for failing to use local hospitals after allegedly running down the country’s own health system.
by Nkosana Dlamini
NewZimbabwe.com’s chief reporter Nkosana Dlamini (ND) rang up Presidential spokesperson George Charamba (GC) to seek his comment. Below is a transcript of the interview.
ND: Mr Charamba, the First Lady has flown to Dubai on a medically induced trip. This is over and above what is now a routine visit to Singapore by the President for his own treatment. In your view, is it in order for the first family to shun local institutions for outside ones?
GC: What is in order is for the first family to choose its doctors the same way you would choose doctors in South Africa. There is something untoward about that?
ND: Is there anything wrong with our own local institutions?
GC: Does anything have to be wrong about local institutions? How many people go to South Africa, London, India or some other place for medical attention?
ND: President Mugabe is an avowed champion of local black empowerment and…
GC: And the President empowers blacks by being taken ill? Come on! Let’s just upgrade our discussion l keep telling you; this is too facile you know. Conceptyako yeempowerment is by the First Lady foregoing medical attention of a specialised nature because that is against black empowerment? Is this how you want to adulterate the concept of black empowerment?
ND: Not at all Mr Charamba, but should Zimbabweans not be equally concerned by the flight of scarce financial resources to go and benefit foreign hospitals?
GC: And the flight is only triggered by the first family? How many Zimbabweans go out to seek medical assistance outside? You are more worried about the flight of your money, so-called your money, not the flight of life?
ND: Are you suggesting it’s more hazardous to be treated locally?
GC: No that’s your conclusion. Don’t put your conclusions in my mouth. I am very clear in what lam saying and l will never trust you to say it for me. Any Zimbabwean, big or small, has a right to seek
medical attention wherever they please, handiti (right)? And the issue is where you get the best attention handiti (right)? And it’s about specialisation. Hakuna nyika iri (there is no country which is) so self-sufficient in terms of medical attention.
l mean, you have seen Presidents going elsewhere; is that new to you? Ndo first family yawanzwa inoenda kunotsvaga (you have heard about going to seek) medical attention outside the country? When you see President Zuma going to Russia to seek medical attention, does that condemn South African medical institutions?
ND: So where does this leave the ordinary man who cannot afford this, Mr Charamba?
GC: The ordinary man goes for services they can afford handiti (right)? And let’s not be nice about it, unoenda kun’anga here iwewe? Do you go to consult a witchdoctor? Why don’t you forgo going to a medical doctor and go kun’anga for the sake of the common people?
Nhai nhai nhai, for goodness sake and let it be said in black and white; this is the President of this country, this is the wife of the President of this country, nothing will take away that fact. They don’t do ordinary people’s work. Why are you trying to make them ordinary only when it comes to medical issues? Ko basa ravanoita every time, why don’t you ask the ordinary man to do it?
ND: Mr Charamba, have a good day.
GC: You too.