By Robert Tapfumaneyi/www.newzimbabwe.com
GUNS now greet Health Ministry personnel, stakeholders, and other visitors as they enter the towering Kaguvi Building where Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga operateS
Chiwenga, who doubles as the country’s Vice President, is now the most powerful minister since Zimbabwe attained its independence 41 years ago securely guarded by dozens of heavily-armed soldiers from the Presidential Guard, Police Protection Unit, and secret service officers.
Moyo was acquitted of the charges last week at the High Court.
“President [Emmerson Mnangagwa] has noted the urgent need to stabilise, restructure and reform the national health delivery system to better cope with challenges of the global Covid-19 pandemic,” the President’s Office said in a statement then.
However, what looks like the ‘urgent need to stabilise, restructure and reform the national health delivery system to better cope with challenges’ has gone the opposite way.
According to sources, Chiwenga who is at most times present at Health Ministry offices never attends any face-to-face meetings with usual stakeholders and senior ministry officials.
“The minister (Chiwenga) every time he makes a presentation, it will be a recorded video presentation. They record him and they show a video,” Itai Rusike, the director of Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), said.
“Because the Ministry of Health is a public institution and when you go to the ministry’s office on the 5th Floor, they are people (state security agents) with guns. So in terms of accessibility, it then becomes also a challenge.”
Dozens of other armed security details will be waiting for Chiwenga at the car park downstairs of Kaguvi Building.
“It also affects us, because we are a key partner for the Ministry of Health. Then how accessible is my minister to me?
“I have been around for some time. I have had the privilege of working with (the late) Timothy Stamps, (David) Parirenyatwa as a deputy minister and then as a minister and at one time as the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health.”
Rusike added: “I worked with (Henry) Madzorera, worked with Obadiah Moyo. But for the first time, do you know that I don’t have direct access to the current Minister of Health?
“But with Parirenyatwa and all these other ministers, we could phone each other on mobile phones and we could address each other on a first-name basis. It was the same with the permanent secretaries, but for the first time, you can’t easily access your permanent secretary (Jasper Chimedza). I can’t easily access Minister of Health (Chiwenga).”
Rusike said with the former health ministers; stakeholders in the health sector used to fly to international meetings with the ministers and engage them easily.
“We could travel to international meetings. We could talk about everything with our ministers and during that time, we could then say back home do you know this needs to be addressed.
“Now, you won’t have that direct interaction (with Chiwenga). So, those are some of the things that are worrying us. In the ministry now, it’s as good as impossible to have a person who can officially comment right, unlike the time of the David Parirenyatwa, Timothy Stamps, and other ministers that were in the ministry before.”Added Rusike: “It’s now a totally different Ministry of Health but what I think is also important is that the restructuring programme within the ministry should have a clear timeframe.
“We need to address the issue of people in senior positions who are in acting capacities within the ministry. We want people who can make decisions. But if you are acting it becomes very difficult, sometimes even to comment because if you comment, you may be putting yourself at risk.”
“I am not sure as journalists when you need official comments, sometimes you need to hear from the permanent secretary. But we know the permanent secretary has been on mute since he came into office.
“I do not know if there is any journalist who has been given a comment by the permanent secretary. He will never talk to you. He is on mute.”
Before he moved to Kaguvi Building along Central Avenue, Chiwenga operated as Vice President from Munhumutapa Government Complex along Samora Machel Avenue.
He was handed over the Health portfolio in August 2020 by President Emmerson Mnangagwa after the arrest of former Health Minister Obadiah Moyo over graft allegations related to the procurement of coronavirus testing kits.