Mugabe's Removal is Too Little, Too Late | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Mugabe’s Removal is Too Little, Too Late

Comment Editor Alex Goodwin argues that the negative impact of Mugabe's position as a WHO goodwill ambassador surpasses his removal

Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director General Elect of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced on October 18th that ‘President Mugabe has agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador on NCDs (non-communicable diseases) for Africa to influence his peers in his region to prioritize NCDs.’

And on October 22nd, WHO announced the retraction of his position.

Mugabe's appointment, to all, came as a shock.

Dr Tedros initially claimed that Zimbabwe is a ‘country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all,’ when in actuality, this was not the case, and the international sphere did not remain silent.

The reality of Mugabe is far from the rhetoric WHO was trying to sell

The decision has been made following the outrage of western donors and human rights groups. NCDs (e.g. cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes etc.) account for 63% of annual deaths worldwide. However, 80% of these deaths occur in low-income countries.

WHO themselves stated in 2010 that the average amount spent on health care per person in African countries was an average of $135 compared to $3,150 in high-income countries, which may not be at the fault of the government, but rather the unfortunate economic circumstances of many underdeveloped African nations.

However, the reality of Mugabe is far from the rhetoric WHO were trying to sell and the Zimbabwean President can in no way shrug off his personal economic responsibilities.

Mugabe is one of a few African presidents that has taken to flying across the globe to receive their health care. In 2017 alone, the 93-year-old President has taken three medical trips to Singapore, one would assume on government money, to receive treatment. Of course though, he could afford this regardless of state funds, as he pays himself two hundred and twenty four thousand US dollars a year.

However, the real angst of Mugabe’s appointment did not only come through his clear lack of a health care agenda for the citizens of Zimbabwe, but also the history of his human rights abuses.

He has been widely hailed by the people of Zimbabwe and their surrounding nations as an African hero

Zimbabwe has had a complicated political history in the last 100 years, having been a colony of Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, both under the administration of the British Monarchy. Mugabe led the Zimbabwe African National Union to a victorious majority in the first democratic election of an independent Zimbabwe in 1980, and has been active president since. Consequently, Mugabe has been widely hailed by the people of Zimbabwe and their surrounding nations as an African hero.

However, the citizens of Zimbabwe and the international sphere have become increasingly sceptical of the leader. Not only are the promises Mugabe made during the war of independence yet to be realised but the President has also been running the country as a Dictatorship for the best part of two decades.

But of course, that still did not deter WHO’s decision.

Mugabe was runner-up in the 2008 elections but unleashed violence in order to keep a stronghold on his political power over opponent Tsvangirai. However, this is not the first time the President has used personal militia to gain his political aims, as the same thing occurred after he suffered a defeat during the proposal of a new constitution of Zimbabwe in a referendum held in 2000. He violently imposed an economic policy of removing farm ownership from white Rhodesians and dispersing it amongst black Zimbabweans under government control.

The damaging message has already been sent

Whilst I am in no way suggesting the UK and the European Union were an innocent party in the matter, Mugabe used violence and terror to push out the Rhodesian farmers, single-handedly bringing the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy- and was later rewarded and hailed by a renowned health organisation?

The final cherry on top of Mugabe’s Dictatorship cake is that he himself wants to handpick his Presidential successor, which is about as far from democracy as one can get. Mugabe’s human rights violations and political corruption alone should have been reason enough for WHO to see he is not a suitable choice, but to declare the President as a man that places health care above all other policies, whilst he himself goes abroad to be treated, is offensive to the highest degree.

The removal of his position is too little too late; the damaging message has already been sent. International Organisations must stop placing halos upon Dictator’s heads, and responsibly recognize the damage of such individuals.

The World Health Organization has completely contradicted their purpose in a very public and embarrassing manner.

4th year Political Science and International Relations student (@alexgoodwin_)


25th October 2017 at 9:00 am

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