South Africa


Zimbabwe healthcare: Is it as bad as Phophi Ramathuba claims?

Zimbabwe healthcare: Is it as bad as Phophi Ramathuba claims?
A local maediucal expert reports that Zimbabwean healthcare workers are 'very busy' and 'overworked', but 'I did not see collapsing health services'. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

It turns out that it’s not great, but not as bad as the picture painted by the Limpopo health MEC.

In light of the video in which Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba berates a Zimbabwean patient for the failure of the Zimbabwean government to provide health services, it’s worth asking: just how bad is the Zimbabwean health service?

Dr Francois Venter of Ezintsha at Wits University sent private emails to his contacts in Zimbabwe to find out.

Here are some of the responses he got (lightly edited for typos and grammar):

“Access to antiretroviral treatment [for people with HIV] is not a problem in Zimbabwe. At times there are issues regarding laboratories, but these are usually temporary.”

Snatching away Mandela’s gift of health and the return of medical apartheid

“Routine antenatal care is available in all districts across the country. Complicated cases requiring assisted delivery are referred to district hospitals. We do not have a significant access issue for most of the population.”

“If someone was in a car accident and had moderate injuries requiring a general anaesthetic and, say, a fracture alignment, would they usually get it? Yes, however they may face delays… Access to emergency care for severe injuries such as head injuries requiring urgent CT scans is limited outside major cities.”

“If a child needed hospitalisation for pneumonia, and needed antibiotics and oxygen, would they usually get it? Yes, this is available in hospitals across the country.”

Venter said he asked his contacts not to sugarcoat their responses and to stick to the current situation. 

“Part of the reason I wanted to hear from them was that I got referrals from Zimbabwean public services all the time and have had no indications of any problems in the antiretroviral programme. I also visited clinics in Zimbabwe in 2018. They were very busy and hard, overworked health workers, but I did not see collapsing health services, or at least nothing you wouldn’t see in Johannesburg where I work.”

Limpopo health MEC’s berating of Zimbabwean patient is appalling and shameful

Venter makes a tentative conclusion: “Zimbabwe is politically autocratic, but that doesn’t mean its health services are collapsing. They are challenged, but probably stronger overall than, say, much of the Eastern Cape.” DM

First published by GroundUp.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The problem in our health system by looking at the AG reports of Limpopo and Gauteng Province are not foreigners but massive corruption. lack of controls, poor management and theft of medicines. The murder of Babita Deokran in the Gauteng Health Department to shield the political elite behind the looting of the health department is one case but it was preceded by fire to destroy evidence at Lisbon building. Makhura’s white wash and lies will nit fly as it is not the first time he “appoints” SIU to investigate when he has no such powers. He has done it in the Carltonville looting of a half billion and he lost the case because there was no proclamation to investigate by the SIU. We are keeping an eye on Mothibi who comes from Bochum.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options