Monday, September 29, 2008


Weekend Observer

27 September 2008

A mover, shaker needed as Health minister

By Fanyana Mabuza

The Ministry of Health is no doubt one of the most critical ministries in cabinet, that which has had the misfortune of being headed by people lacking the skills to drive it so it can make a difference within the nation.

At times, the right people do get appointed, but strangely they seem to fail to make an impression, and by the time of their departure, they are lumped together with previous incompetents.

As the times move on, the challenge of the country's Minister for Health and Social Welfare keep on growing and will soon become an insurmountable heap if a mover and shaker minister is not found and appointed the soonest.

This portfolio is also coupled with the country's social welfare issues, which makes it all the more important, while being one of the most difficult to run.

Then there is the cross-cutting issue of HIV and Aids which is threatening the country's very existence. Intervention responsibilities against this killer disease also get to fall on the Minister for Health's lap, making his task one cocktail of fatal difficulties, since when people die unnecessarily in hospital, his competence is thoroughly scrutinised at times even in the public forum.

The last for Health Minister Njabulo Mabuza took a lot of rap over the way he ran the ministry, which eventually shone the spotlight on his academic record which was found to be wanting. Even though the Prime Minister tried his best to defend him, his inability to run such a sensitive ministry kept on shining brightly, which helped to show that the Premier's defence was nothing but a smoke screen to protect the appointing authorities.

We have the problems of hospitals running short of not only drugs and medication. but simple things like water, and government does its best to play down the real truth, when actually things are falling apart.

It is in this respect that the Weekend Observer went out and asked some people with a stake on the health sector, as to what kind of person they would like to see appointed to this hot ministry.

Sibusiso Lushaba, Swaziland Nurses Association.

"I honestly believes that with our political system, no matter how good a person can be in his field, but will always be doomed for failure in this ministry. As nurses, we have a person in mind whom we believe could be the right for the job, and that is nurse Benedict Xaba, who has since made it. The guy is good, and has all his ducks in a straight row. As a medical professional he would make an ideal Health Minister, but even if that could happen he would soon go blunt as a minister and soon people would be calling for his resignation. The system is designed to render all people useless, as to what gain this is for, only God knows."

Lushaba continued that the system was unworkable and whatever bright spark you can put into it, would soon go dim.

He stated that he still cannot fathom as to why so many people are willing to break even a bank just to make it into Parliament.

"I must stress though that these are my personal views, and not of the nurses association," he closed.

Thembi Nkhambule, SWANEPHA

"Our welfare as people living with HIV for the past two years has been neglected so much that we could not even get treatment at the hospitals and had to spend a lot of money at pharmacies. Treatment for opportunistic infections also was non-available, while the issue diagnostics worsened the conditions and a lot of people, especially in the rural areas, went undiagnosed even for other diseases like TB and cervical cancer.

"There are less policies to make living with HIV easier. in fact, the policies are almost non-existent. In this regard we need a leader who is exemplary, and who will lead by that example. He must also have a background to make him understand and appreciate health issues. He must also be a dynamic person as HIV is highly mutative and changes faces every now and then.

"He must also be involved and not be a denialist, just as is the case today. We have people saying we have run out of HIV drugs, while the minister came out and said the opposite. We need a minister who will know exactly what is there and what is not, as we have projections he can rely on.

"He must be a strategist policy maker and team player who can look at why we run out of drugs when we have projections. He would be able to motivate his staff, while making utmost use of the resources at hand. I know this may be asking for too much, but we really need a dynamic minister to arrest the deadly situation at this ministry," she closed.

Former Minister for Health, Mfomfo Nkhambule.

"The new Minister for Health must be naturally intellectual, brave and highly educated. He must be very brave to be able to act on available information, damn whoever that information touches. He must be educated indeed, but natural wisdom is more like it, and the education would simply add on top of an available resource. This is not only needed at Health, but in all the ministries.

He must be brave to take unpopular decisions and crack the whip on inept officers, be it a Principal Secretary or a Director of Medical Services, if we still have that position. Right now the Health headquarters is dead, which is why we have problems like shortages of drugs or worse still, water in our hospitals.

This must begin with the Prime Minister and trickle down to the ministries themselves, and not only the health ministry." he closed.


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