WHO ya gonna be­lieve about good­will job?

Mu­gabe says world body never for­mally gave him the po­si­tion it now says it has re­scinded

Financial Mail - - BETWEEN THE CHAINS - Ray Hart­ley hart­leyr@ti­soblack­star.co.za

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (WHO) new direc­torgen­eral, Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus, made an ev­erso-slight mis­cal­cu­la­tion.

He appointed Zim­bab­wean pres­i­dent, Robert Mu­gabe to the po­si­tion of “good­will am­bas­sador”.

The “good­will am­bas­sador” is the ul­ti­mate jun­ket ticket. Un­like the “spe­cial en­voy” who must ex­pend en­ergy ap­pear­ing to at­tend to an ac­tual prob­lem, the “good­will am­bas­sador” has no tasks other than to travel the globe, stay in first-class ho­tels and af­fect a great in­ter­est in hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs.

Ghe­breye­sus said he appointed Mu­gabe be­cause of his ad­mi­ra­tion for the lat­ter’s “com­mit­ment to pub­lic health”. Mu­gabe would, he said “in­flu­ence his peers in the re­gion” to im­prove their health-care pro­vi­sion.

When it was pointed out that Zim­babwe’s health-care sys­tem had in fact col­lapsed in re­cent years, that staff of­ten went with­out pay, that medicines were in short sup­ply and that Mu­gabe him­self trav­elled abroad to get his per­sonal health at­tended to, Ghe­breye­sus was a lit­tle em­bar­rassed.

He em­barked on an earnest round of con­sul­ta­tion with Zim­babwe’s gov­ern­ment be­fore an­nounc­ing that it was “in the best in­ter­ests” of the WHO to re­scind the ap­point­ment, the BBC re­ported.

If the in­ci­dent was em­bar­rass­ing for Ghe­breye­sus, it ap­pears to have had no ef­fect on Mu­gabe at all.

Zim­babwe’s pres­i­den­tial spokesman, Ge­orge Charamba, told the coun­try’s Herald news­pa­per that Mu­gabe had not been for­mally of­fered the po­si­tion and, if he had, would not have taken it up.

“The de­ci­sion, if it was one, to des­ig­nate the pres­i­dent of Zim­babwe as good­will am­bas­sador is some­thing he learnt about from the news,” said Charamba.

Such a re­quest, if it had come, would have been “awk­ward”, Charamba said.

“Lest it be for­got­ten that Zim­babwe is a world-famed pro­ducer of to­bacco, and for its head of state to be seen to be play­ing good­will am­bas­sador in re­spect of an agency which has a well-de­fined stance on to­bacco grow­ing and to­bacco sell­ing, that would have been a con­tra­dic­tion.”

Looks like the WHO is more than a lit­tle po­lit­i­cally clue­less.

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