By Costa Nkomo
SMALL and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni says Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was ideal for the highly demanding health ministry portfolio.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa Tuesday dropped a bombshell through controversial appointment of the former military commander to double as substantive health minister.
This follows the recent sacking of Obadiah Moyo as health minister following his alleged involvement in a drug and kit tender scandal.
Chiwenga’s appointment as health minister has caused public uproar with critics saying the VP does not have the best of relations with a restive national health staff.
Others feel the VP has trusted foreign hospitals with his own health challenges and was not the best person to preside over the country’s ailing health system.
Chiwenga, who is battling chronic ailment, spent four consecutive months in a Chinese hospital last year receiving treatment.
Before that, he had run-ins with some striking health staff, responding with a 2018 sacking of 16 000 nurses for refusing a government directive to end their job action.
But addressing a post-cabinet media briefing Wednesday, Nyoni, who was standing in for Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, said Chiwenga was a professional who could who had the rightful energies to turn around the fortunes of a sector that has seen endless job actions by staff over poor wages and working conditions.
“I want to assure the nation that now that we have a new minister and a new permanent secretary, the issues on health are going to be handled with professionalism and also from the good and strong team,” Nyoni said.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube also weighed in saying government was confident the VP will bring new energies to save the collapsing health care system.
“The new minister in the form of the Vice President will add impetus to the delivery of service in the health sector,” he said.
Chiwenga’s appointment came a day after Mnangagwa also elevated Director of Health Services for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza to health permanent secretary.
While the Zimbabwe Nurses Association in a statement Wednesday, welcomed the appointment of the former military bosses to head the health ministry, it maintained the grievances raised by its members must be met before resuming work.
“Our reasonable demands are in the public domain. We look forward to being engaged on these on the basis of mutual respect, where our constitutional and labour rights to a fair wage and not to work in unsafe conditions are respected.
“Further, we look forward to having our demands acknowledged and met. As we have indicated before, we are unable to return back to work until this has been done,” the association said.