One week to fix one eye?

George Charamba told us recently that President Robert Mugabe had to go on a private visit to Singapore for “routine” corrective optical surgery on an eye that has been operated on before.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

Well, Mugabe’s visits can never be private for as long as they gobble scores of thousands of dollars from the public purse, but this is not what I will be talking about here.

I don’t wish the President any ill health. On the contrary, I wish him a hundred more years in good health. I am just confused about why he has to go away for so long for a routine exercise on one eye.

The statesman has, commendably, helped bring Chinese eye surgeons to Zimbabwe in the past to operate on old people’s cataracts. I have attended some of the operations at places like Chitungwiza Hospital and what I can say without any qualms is that none of the beneficiaries of the opticians’ benevolence lasted more than an hour—for both eyes!

That it should take a whole week to fix only one eye shows that something is very wrong here. I don’t have faith in an eye surgeon who would take a whole week to operate on a recurring cataract. Remember, as Charamba acknowledged, this is not the first time that the eye has been worked on. That could mean Mugabe has put his faith in the wrong doctor.

That is just one way of looking at the whole thing, of course. In another sense, it could mean that the eye—and perhaps other faculties in his biological system—is increasingly getting beyond salvation. There is nothing surprising about that. He is 90 after all, and nature takes its toll on all of us at some stage. He is not immortal and God designed the human body in such a way that its capacity diminishes with age.

The truth of the matter is that Mugabe has lacked insight and foresight all along. The president has demonstrated a poor appreciation of the realities of our situation. I am confused by the fact that he has to repeatedly travel thousands of miles to Singapore to have his eyes fixed, when a solution lies right here in Zimbabwe.

It seems he has not heard about Eyes for Africa, a philanthropic initiative of which our own internationally acclaimed eye surgeon, Dr Solomon Guramatunhu, is a leading member. This group has done wonders to restore many old people’s eyesight. I am surprised his advisers and informants have not told him about this. Why would they keep such good news away from him? If he does know about it, why then is he shunning his own? What then does that say about his indigenisation policy and the much vaunted local beneficiation talk?

It appears the president either lacks trust in his own institutions and people or he is just trying to keep some things out of sight. Dr Guramatunhu is an eye specialist who could adequately render services to the First Citizen – maybe even for free, thereby saving the national treasury hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on foreign health-seeking trips.

He has dealt with hundreds, if not thousands, of cataracts in the past and I don’t see how different Mugabe’s eye problem could be that it would render him unsuitable. That leaves the possibility that the president is avoiding local scrutiny of his health. He is maybe afraid that Guramatunhu and local surgeons would discover things that we have up to now not been told officially.

Even so, I don’t see why he should be fussy about that. We all suffer our own malignancies and it is a naturally acknowledged reality that people fall sick, more so when they are in advanced age. The fact that one is a president does not make him or her any exception.

Of course, if we were to discover that Mugabe was suffering from a terminal ailment or ailments, we would get very worried and seriously consider having him replaced as the Zimbabwe Unlimited CEO. Perhaps that is where his worry lies, as he wants to continue to rule, disease or no disease.

As far as foresight is concerned, Mugabe must admit that he lacked the capacity to see into the future and invest in a robust health system that would enable him to get whatever medical attention he required locally. He should be kicking himself for concentrating on a futile indigenisation policy and retribution against political opponents at the expense of a vibrant health system.

If he had done that, we would be having the best eye surgeons in Zimbabwe, in addition to Guramatunhu, of course. He could even have gone further to establish a VIP clinic for himself and other members of the elite class, but he didn’t. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis
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