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HomeMedico-LegalZimbabwe judge rejects bid to stop COVID-19 hospital for the 'political elite'

Zimbabwe judge rejects bid to stop COVID-19 hospital for the 'political elite'

The High Court in Zimbabwe has rejected an attempt to stop the refurbishment of an incomplete and deserted hospital and make it available for patients ill with COVID-19, writes Carmel Rickard in a Legalbrief analysis. The Rock Foundation Medical Centre, sometimes called the Arundel Mediclinic and Arundel Hospital, has been at the centre of a major row, with many government opposition members saying the ruling party was renovating the place for the use of the political elite.

Carmel Rickard, in her A Matter of Justice column on the Legalbrief site, says government response to these claims has been equivocal, and there is still a strong belief that the upgraded facilities would be available only to fee paying patients.

Since the vast majority of people in Zimbabwe would not be able to afford treatment at such centres, and must rely on public facilities that lack even the most basic equipment, the Rock Foundation hospital and a second facility that is also being upgraded for fee-paying patients, have both become touchstones for public protest.

According to a Zimbabwe Live report, outrage greeted the announcement that Zanu PF financier Kudakwashe Tagwirei had taken over the two private hospitals in Harare, which would be upgraded and equipped to accommodate “VIP” coronavirus patients. MDC deputy president Tendai Biti called the government a “disaster”, while prominent Zimbabweans took to social media with pledges to lead protests at the facilities.

The report said Tagwirei’s Sakunda Holdings announced a takeover of St Anne’s Hospital in Avondale and the Rock Foundation Medical Centre in Mt Pleasant, two days after Zimbabwe announced its first coronavirus death at the City of Harare-owned Wilkins Hospital. Government spokesperson Nick Mangagwa admitted the Rock Foundation Medical Centre, owned by the jailed rapist Munyaradzi Kereke, would only take paying patients – effectively making it an exclusive facility for political elites.

Health ministry permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva, said the government had made a request to St Anne’s management to “utilise” the hospital and had identified Sakunda Holdings to be “our partner to work with us and yourselves to do all the remaining renovations and refurbishments necessary for the hospital to function in the shortest possible time.”

The report says the infectious diseases Wilkins Hospital was designated by the government as the main facility to take in coronavirus patients, but it was exposed as woefully unprepared following the death of Zororo Makamba, the son of millionaire telecoms tycoon, James Makamba. Makamba’s family said the hospital had no ventilators, no power sockets, limited oxygen and no medicines – revelations which appear to have spooked the country’s elites in business, politics, the military and government.

The report says Zimbabwe’s governing elite fly to India, South Africa, China and the United Arab Emirates for treatment, while the population is left at the mercy of rundown public hospitals which lack basic equipment and are manned by poorly paid nurses and doctors. However, international restrictions on flights and foreign visitors by most countries means for the first time ever, Zimbabwe’s wealthy and the majority poor are boxed in, and must use the same hospital facilities.

Biti said attempts to create enclaves for the rich, while failing to address the poor infrastructure at Wilkins and the infectious diseases Thorngrove Hospital in Bulawayo were a betrayal of the people.

[link url="https://legalbrief.co.za/legalbrief/newsletters/newsletter/7996/email/#redirect"]A Matter of Justice column[/link]

[link url="http://zimlii.org/zw/judgment/files/harare-high-court/2020/259/2020-zwhhc-259.pdf"]Judgment[/link]

[link url="https://www.zimlive.com/2020/03/26/outrage-over-coronavirus-hospitals-for-the-political-elite-in-zimbabwe/"]Full Zimbabwe Live report[/link]

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