Frederick Douglass once said, “Those who profess to favour freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
One must then ask why is it that the demand exists yet there is no proper response to it. In the very nature, with all its riches – natural and human resources – Africa is yet to build a world class medical facility that will attract fellow world citizens to visit. All we see are African leaders now and then leaving the continent in pursuit of medical attention in the far, middle east or throughout the world. They do this with no shame. They undergo this with money of their people, a people who are in dire need of proper medical attention and facilities. Fortunate are the leaders who can do as they please.
Our moral duty as citizens of the continent is to hold our leadership accountable, critique them and remind them that they are products of the people. The occupation of political office must never be mistaken for favour, for it is an honour to lead your people. No African leader must be without reproach. Africa can only get worse if that exists.
In October 2014 Zambia lost its former President Machael Sata who died in the United Kingdom. Prior to his death, he had travelled to India, South Africa and Israel in search of medical care. Sata was not the first Zambian head of state to die in office; Levy Mwanawasa died of stroke in France. Like Sata, he too had travelled to South Africa and the United Kingdom before. The people of Zambia over decades have continued to debate on constituting a medical parole board to assess the health of the President. While at it, they have failed to develop a state hospital in their own country to respond to the medical needs of their people. Just like Frederick said, these are leaders who “want crops without ploughing the ground.” If you do not invest in your health care, you will have to swallow the bitter pill of having to fly throughout the world seeking help.
Currently, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is in Singapore for a medical check-up. This is a leader who left behind a country where doctors and nurses are on strike and that citizens desperately need proper health care. He is ignoring the call by his people and has gone to foreign lands to calm his head and be nursed back to health. Who will speak for the poor? The very same poor whom when they rise are reminded that the alleged west is to blame. A leader who has been in office from 1980 and still has not produced a world class hospital to take care of him and his fellow country man. In essence we wonder how many specialists has he produced? Does he even care?
Another Nation which comes to mind is Nigeria whose former President Umaru Musa Yar’adua who left Nigeria on November 23 2009 for Saudi Arabia was declared dead on May 5th in 2010 after he had undergone pancreatic treatment. Sadly, he passed on after a few months of his return. Currently President Muhammadu Buhari is also in a foreign land seeking medical attention, but the burning question remains, why has Nigeria with all its resources failed to build a facility which can respond to the needs of its people?
In their quest for a better life, healthcare facilities must improve and their rich oil must assist them in this regard. Africa is not poor, Africa needs visionary leaders.
The coloniser is long gone but in most instances the effect of that subjugation remains in Africa and the ramifications are felt daily. Can this be the constant excuse we keep giving our people? In the context of South Africa, our former President Nelson Mandela had to use a military ambulance which got stuck for hours and as a result he died in his home land. A man who would have been received by any medical facility for free, chose to cast no doubt on his people’s hospitals, a rear conduct from a man like him. The South African government has inherited infrastructure and better hospitals but the question is, will this be maintained and improved in decades to come? Seeking medical assistance from foreign lands seems to be the only option our leaders are relying on. Will better health facilities and specialists ever be prioritised and implemented if this trend continues? African leaders must individually and collectively invest in health care infrastructure. They must demonstrate moral and political will to serve their people with dignity and dedication. We must continue to discourage leaders who take flights, leave the poor behind when it is dark and travel to the end of the world seeking medical attention while nothing is being done to improve the state of their own nations.
Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked, she is also an NEC member of the ANCYL. She writes in her personal capacity.