President Emmerson Mnangagwa has appointed one of his deputies, Constantino Chiwenga, as Minister of Health taking the place of Obadiah Moyo who was sacked a month earlier over allegations of graft in awarding coronavirus testing contracts.
According to the statement, which justifies the appointment under Section 99 of the 2013 Constitution, Mnangagwa said Chiwenga had been appointed to the post because of “the urgent need to stabilise, restructure and reform the National Health Delivery System to better cope with challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and in the process, ensuring a quick turn-around in national healthcare”.
Chiwenga takes charge of a ministry currently bedeviled by challenges including the ongoing strike by doctors and nurses demanding a meaningful remuneration in US dollars, as well as shortage of equipment and drugs amid a sharp spike in COVID-19 infections in the country.
During his acting as president some two years ago, Vice President Chiwenga told health workers that there won’t be any chance for government to pay them in US dollars, a demand brought forward by government doctors and nurses.
“For the avoidance of doubt, government will not remunerate any of its work-force in United States dollars.” said Chiwenga
He further told them that forex was for importing essentials which did not go down well with some medical staff.
“The hard-earned foreign currency will be committed to, among other areas, importing essential medicines for hospitals and clinics, as well as to facilitate the recovery of the economy, in line with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme.”
The health ministry is now being run by top military guys following the recent appointment of Jasper Chimedza, an air commodore as the permanent secretary for the ministry.
Dr. Chiwenga was commander of the army before being appointed commander of the defence forces which he left to become Vice-President for the second republic.
The news on the appointment of VP Chiwenga to head the health ministry, was received with mixed feelings as expressed by some individuals on social media.
Constitutional Lawyer and law lecturer Advocate Fadzai Mahere commenting on the appointment of Dr. Chiwenga said “…Section 99 is clear. It doesn’t permit the appointment of a VP as a substantive Minister. The terms “assist” in the “administration of a Ministry” mean that at most a VP can be acting at best not that he can hold 2 roles at once. That’s unconstitutional per s103.”
Thomas Mbimba, “Even if his appointment was within the confines of the constitution, it is still ridiculous to think that a government official without any medical background can be appointed as health minister.”
However, Maxwell Masuku Gada a health officer was optimistic that the VP may positively turn the fortunes of the health ministry if only he is a changed man.
“Let’s get give him a chance he might be the one sent to lead us into the promised land, if he is a changed man I will doubt not”
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Zimbabwe has risen to 80 as of Tuesday. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases also surged to 4,075 after 154 cases, all local infections, were reported.
Liberty Pazvakawambwa SADC News Correspondent