President Mugabe yesterday roundly criticised doctors for valuing money more instead of serving people in urgent need of healthcare services and called for an urgent solution to the impasse between doctors and medical aid societies.
Addressing thousands of people gathered at the National Heroes Acre for the burial of celebrated medical doctor and national hero Retired Brigadier-General Felix Muchemwa, who died in Egypt last Monday, President Mugabe said doctors said while doctors deserved decent remuneration, they should also appreciate the current harsh economic environment.
Doctors, he said, should put people’s interests first ahead of their personal interests adding that during the war doctors like Brig-Gen Muchemwa were not paid for assisting wounded comrades, but they were solely motivated by the desire to save lives.
The President’s remarks come in the wake of a standoff between doctors and medical aid societies with the medical practitioners demanding cash upfront from patients on medical aid.
Said President Mugabe: “There is (an) example, vamwe vanoda mari kuenda kuna doctor. Une mari here? Kana usina mari hatikurape. But here was the Hippocratic Oath yekuti doctor haangaregerere pamhiko dzawo munhu achifa nekuti haana mari.
“Well, our doctors were not being paid and that was their sacrifice on the part of Dr Muchemwa alongside the other doctors. But today what do we read? We read of a standoff between doctors and medical insurers. We never cease to wonder what has become of the Hippocratic Oath that demands that care must nevertheless to be given to the sick even where you are being paid less. Have our doctors lost their values that used to define them?
“Values that used to define them to life and its sustenance that life is dear. Do not allow people to die. Do all you can to save life.
“True, we expect everyone, doctors included, to be rewarded evenly for work done but is it not important for us all in the medical field to appreciate the social context within which we execute our duties.
“Vamwe havangofunga zvavo kuti we still are fighting a war, a liberation war. Tiri pane chimwe chimurenga just now. We have sanctions that have been imposed on us and therefore there are those limitations and restrictions that prevent our economy from running smoothly.”
President Mugabe said the country was facing economic challenges that were being exacerbated by targeted sanctions by the West.
In some cases, President Mugabe said, Zimbabwe found it difficult to export its products due to the sanctions that saw payments being intercepted by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (that falls under the Department of Treasury).
Sometimes it’s not possible to export our goods at all because of certain countries,” said the President.
“To get assistance for international institutions like all other countries do in order to assist our production -even as we want to pay our partners who will have assisted us, our monies are frozen. New York says no and penalises all banks that handle Zimbabwean money.
“So there are always difficulties and some people don’t seem to appreciate. They think no, we are like any other country, free as air. We are not.
“There is that aspect of giveness, of sacrifice. We are working for the welfare of the people and putting the lives of the people first and your own interests being subjected to the interests of the people. No, not many are like Felix Muchemwa. No. Dr Muchemwa would have asked for no less than we are asking from his peers that let’s be understanding.
“He never put money first. He indeed served his people right up to the end. But as I speak, there is still a standoff between medical staff and the authorities kumahospitals kwedu.
“If we had not put the interests of our people first, the fact that our people were being suppressed, oppressed, subjected to a racial system, which was brutal and that we needed to do all we could to redeem them, we would not have embarked on a liberation struggle. It was our people, the interests of our people, the lives of our people, their right. Just putting the people first.’’
Turning to the indigenisation policy, President Mugabe said foreign investors should come on Zimbabwe’s terms.
He said Zimbabwe would not sacrifice its land and natural resources to access foreign funding.
President Mugabe said some beneficiaries of the land reform were engaging former white commercial farmers to do farming and he described that as betrayal of the liberation war.
He described the decorated national hero as a loyal and humble cadre who committed his life to serve the people.
“You fought a good fight, you are a good soldier, unyielding, a good doctor who served the nation and a lover of your people, therefore an outstanding humanitarian,” said President Mugabe.
The President chronicled the sacrifices that Dr Muchemwa made during and after the liberation struggle.