HARDLY a day after his arrival from a four-month long medical trip in China, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga torched a fierce storm when he blasted MDC-run councils for failure to address service delivery problems and the opposition at large for having a destructive mentality.
He also tongue-lashed striking civil servants.
Chiwenga on Saturday arrived in the capital aboard a Chinese government jet and immediately threatened striking doctors, while attacking the MDC for having a “Genghis Khan mentality”.
His comments immediately attracted a backlash from the opposition MDC and doctors, among others, who feel the former army commander was out of touch with developments which took place in his long absence.
“We would think that it is high time high-ranking officials take what is happening in the health sector as a crisis,” Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights spokesperson Fortune Nyamande said.
“Leaders must desist from these kinds of approaches. They are not appreciating the gravity of the crisis. People are dying, newborn babies are dying, mothers are dying while giving birth and such utterances will not solve the crisis.
“The Vice-President should apply his mind deeply and bring stakeholders together to dialogue out of the crisis and find a win-win situation. It is time this issue is taken seriously. People are dying and we would have expected a solution from the VP.”
Soon after touching down in Harare at the weekend, Chiwenga, who in April last year fired over 16 000 striking nurses at public hospitals before government later reversed the decision following an outcry, said: “We have to work, we have the resources. We must utilise them and work and build our country. That’s the message we want to give our people that it will not help now and again to go on strike. You strike against what? Let’s work and build our country.”
His statements come as public hospital doctors and Harare council nurses have downed tools over slave wages while most civil servants have declared incapacitation due to the harsh economic environment.
Chiwenga also fired potshots at the MDC, accusing opposition-run councils of sleeping on duty, a comment that attracted anger from the Nelson Chamisa-led party.
He labelled the MDC as having a “Genghis Khan mentality” in apparent reference to Khan, founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death.
“To the others, it will not help to have that Genghis Khan mentality. He wanted to conquer the world and went through the ancient desert. All the horses perished, all the men perished, so why would you want to do that?” Chiwenga said.
MDC shadow deputy minister for local government, Clifford Hlatshwayo, said Chiwenga had spent a lot of time outside the country and his comment on the opposition’s failure to run councils was misinformed.
“If it’s Costantino Guvheya, I know he has not been in the country for a long time. I hear he is not feeling well and he was getting medical attention outside Zimbabwe, I am told in China,” Hlatshwayo said.
“Obviously, he is not in touch with what is on the ground. What he knows is to squander taxpayers’ money in China while the people here are dying without medication. Obviously he is misinformed.
“The Zanu PF illegitimate government is the one that has run down this country.
“The MDC-run councils are trying by all means to deliver smart services to the residents.”
Hlatshwayo blamed interference by Zanu PF for hindering service delivery in MDC-run councils.
“Interference from the central government is at an alarming rate. The interference is very unnecessary and illegal. The Constitution of Zimbabwe is clear. It states that councils are managed by elected officials of council. But because Zanu PF lost in the elections, they are trying to impose themselves in MDC-run urban local authorities,” he said.
The MDC controls 28 out of 32 urban local authorities.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said: “General Chiwenga’s return pauses a lot of paradoxes vis-a-vis the practical challenges that Zimbabwe is currently facing. His first shot was to dismiss the justification of striking at workplace, something coming as a blow, especially to the health sector whose grievances remain genuine, but with no urgency to settle from government.
“Yet he is coming from treatment in China which, without proper remuneration of doctors attending him, he could have died. That being said, a lot of hype on Chiwenga’s return and expectations as whispered in corridors of power will soon be demystified with time because he remains simply a Zanu PF functionary who cannot be better.”