Cde Robert Mugabe: WHO and what is WHO?
A WEEK ago our mainstream media widely disseminated President Robert Mugabe’s appointment as the World Health Organisation — WHO Africa’s Goodwill Ambassador.
This appointment is said to have been conferred during course of the WHO Global Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases, which was held in Uruguay. The media framing of this matter conveyed the usual antithesis of our contesting political binaries. From the outset, it was inevitable that the so-called appointment of His Excellency as WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Africa would be celebrated and demonised at home. However, what emerged was that this misnamed appointment of the African nationalist icon tempered with the egos of the self-proclaimed global prefects of modernity, democracy, human rights and globalisation. This followed WHO DirectorGeneral Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ pronouncement of his honour to President Mugabe as a symbol of redemptive African conscience and ardent mastermind of human factor development:
“We are also honoured today to be joined by His Excellency President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a country that has placed universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health for all, and also the innovative financing for NCDs that we heard from President Mugabe”.
In what may be regarded as a retort to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President Mugabe pointed out the remarkable strides that have been made by Zimbabwe to ensure that combative measures are put in place to curtail the effects of Non-Communicable Diseases, “Efforts are also under way to establish an inter-Ministerial Task Force on Non-Communicable Diseases through the Ministry of Health and Child Care”. The President went further to state that:
“This initiative comes from our awareness that non-communicable diseases need a multi-sectoral response, and comes on the back of our highly acclaimed Aids Levy. We have established Health Levy Fund, an innovative financing mechanism to raise resources for the procurement of medicines, supplies and equipment for the management of non-communicable diseases, among other conditions. This fund is derived from a five percent surcharge of mobile communications usage. In the case of non-communicable diseases, Zimbabwe has adopted a National Health Strategy spanning from 2016-2020, which we have dubbed ‘Equity and Quality in Health: Leaving No One Behind.” Cde Mugabe: Unmasking the racial
hierarchies of the world order Therefore, it is clear that with or without an endorsement from the World Health Organisation, Zimbabwe has established frameworks aimed at fighting NonCommunicable Diseases. However, the inflated attention, which this matter received, is a reflection of the extent to which Cde Mugabe continues to be a symbol of stubborn ideological consistence and how he is a centre of global focus in multilateral policy-making spaces. His presence in these global policy dialogues is always viewed from a point of antagonism. A few months back, when he spoke at the Africa Forum Conference in South Africa, his dismissal of the anti-narrative of Zimbabwe as a fragile state became a centre of global dialogue. This reflects the extent to which President Mugabe has positioned Zimbabwe at the fore of challenging the autonomy of those who perceive themselves as wardens of world order.
The antagonistic reaction to the announcement of President Mugabe as WHO’s African Goodwill Ambassador came from the arch-opponents of Zimbabwe and the ideological personhood of Cde Robert Mugabe as they threatened to cut their funding from WHO. This shows that this matter represents the bigger neoliberal contestation of the leadership legitimacy of Cde Robert Mugabe. Moreover, this expresses the permanence of racial animosity in global policy planning. This is because President Mugabe is a symbol of the fight for Black supremacy in the face of subtle exertions of white supremacy concealed as globalisation, world peace, democracy and liberalism.
Had this appointment been confirmed, as Presidential spokesman Mr George Charamba later revealed no official confirmation was made on the said appointment; it can be concluded that the outrage, which ensued the appointment “announcement” of Robert Mugabe, was meant to prevent African capture of the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is because Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is WHO’s first Director-General. Moreover, his respect to one perceived as a neo-liberal dissident (in the form the Pan-African Cde Mugabe) would be tantamount to an absolute African capture of the World Health Organisation. This incident immensely expresses the extent to which African ideas have no equal footing with Western value systems at multilateral standpoints. The international system as a theatre of
realism This perspective evokes the need to revisit Hans Morganthou (1978)’s analysis on principles of realism in international relations:
“For realism, theory consists in ascertaining facts and giving them meaning through reason. It assumes that the character of a foreign policy can be ascertained only through the examination of the political acts performed and of the foreseeable consequences of these acts. Thus, we can find out what statesmen have actually done, and from the foreseeable consequences of their acts we can surmise what their objectives might have been. Yet examination of the facts is not enough.”
In Morgansthou’s view, a critic of an international political-economy matter must be appreciated from the ideological lens of the individual state actors in concern. As such, the admiration of Cde Robert Mugabe by WHO’s Director General had severe international diplomacy implications. Therefore, one needs to appreciate that while this could seem as if it was a mere act of downplaying Cde Robert Mugabe, it was in fact a fight against the polemic African dissent from Eurocentric dominance at multilateral level. However, what lacked in most analyses produced by our armchair and cyber critics of Cde Robert Mugabe was scientific conceptualisation of the politics of the international space interpretation. According to Morgansthou (1978) there was no accurate “meaning to the factual raw material of foreign policy” of the parties involved. However, the same scholar prescribes the need for horizontal and vertical praxis of interpreting matters of political diplomacy and altercations within the international system:
. . . we must approach political reality with a kind of rational outline, a map that suggests to us the possible meanings of foreign policy. In other words, we put ourselves in the position of a statesman who must meet a certain problem of foreign policy under certain circumstances, and we ask ourselves, what the rational alternatives are from which a statesman may choose who must meet this problem under these circumstances (presuming always that he acts in a rational manner), and which of these rational alternatives this particular statesman, acting under these circumstances, is likely to choose. It is the testing of this rational hypothesis against the facts and their consequences that gives theoretical meaning to the facts of international politics (ibid).
Guided by this perspective, the analyst is then compelled to put themselves in President Robert Mugabe’s position — a position of an African decolonialist and defender of Zimbabwean interests in the face of global hegemony; against a backdrop of Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Programme and the consequences of accepting the WHO African Goodwill Ambassador’s post by His Excellency, President Robert Mugabe.
After all the assorted attitudes, which this matter produced, there was need for a line to be drawn between truth and fallacy. As such, the Press Secretary in the Office of the President of Zimbabwe and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information of Zimbabwe gave the needed clarity on this matter and further indicated that there was no such appointment conferred to President Mugabe:
“There was nothing, whether verbal or written, from the WHO intimating that WHO wished to make the President a goodwill ambassador in respect of NCDs. The President went to Uruguay to represent Zimbabwe as a member State of the UN and, under it, of the WHO, which is an agency of the UN. He did not go to Uruguay to accost anyone for any role, whether symbolic or real. The decision, if it was one, to designate the President of Zimbabwe as goodwill ambassador is something that he learnt about from the news; which news claimed this had been expressed at a press conference done by one of the WHO officials.” Moreover, Cde Charamba argues that: “For his entire stay in Uruguay, there was nothing that was intimated to him suggesting that designation, and, in any case, there is always a formal way of communicating with Heads of States and to date there is no such communication. What it means, therefore, is that the WHO cannot take back what it never gave in the first place, and as far as he is concerned, all this hullabaloo over a nonappointment is in fact a non-event, but a nonevent which reflects a negative predisposition towards Zimbabwe.”
Cde Charamba further indicated that the President was never going to accept a post with a ripple effect of compromising Zimbabwe’s gains through the agrarian reform. This is because we are famed as the leading producer of tobacco and yet WHO has made frantic efforts to ban the use of tobacco:
“As a matter of fact, had anything been put to the President in the direction of helping WHO by the way of being a Goodwill Ambassador, the President would have found such a request to be an awkward one. Lest it be forgotten that Zimbabwe is worldfamed 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. And, in any case, that would have injured Zimbabwe’s national interest. In other words, he was not going to oblige the invitation had it come his way anyway. His views in respect of Zimbabwe vis-a-vis the campaign, which is WHO-led, are well known.
“He does not believe that Zimbabwe, whose leading foreign currency earner (is tobacco), must stop from growing it for as long as; one, there are people who avidly smoke it and demand it; two, for as long as there are more sinful liquids that the rest of the world manufacture and sell to the world – liquids like whisky, the various sheds of beers which in any event account for more deaths than just smoking.”
Having made these references and attempting to give balanced reflections on the matter at hand, it remains critical to note that the WHO African Goodwill Ambassador saga presents us with a blatant expression of:
How Africanist President Robert Mugabe and consolidator of Zimbabwean sovereignty is an antagonist to the “bigbrother” syndrome of some Western countries.
How admiration of President Mugabe can be a cause of unpopularity for anyone at the helm of international organisations sustained by Western neo-liberal political economy gravitas.
How the international system is a site of racial hierarchies of power — where the national interests of other stakeholders is prejudiced.
How our so-called critics fail, blatantly, to distinguish between the person of President Robert Mugabe and the President of Zimbabwe, and how the WHO confusion denigrate the state of Zimbabwe, hence leading to a slippery slope, as attested by Tedious Ncube in his latest opinion article, A Contestation of WHO’s Ambassadorial Appointment Hullabaloo.
Therefore, when our leaders and the Africa values they stand for are denigrated should we continue to be bona-fide to the dictates of the international system? I AM appealing to all members of our society to respect the teachers for the good job they are doing in our country.
Gone are the days when teachers were seen as very important people in Zimbabwe, both in the rural towns and even in rural areas.
In the rural areas, teachers were very popular and almost everyone would want to be a friend of a teacher or mistress but it has all gone, I really don’t know what has changed now but if nothing is done then it means we are going to have problems as a country. Without teachers there is no future in this country so I feel the Government and private employers must play their part by improving the salaries for these teachers.
I am really disappointed to see that teachers are earning salaries which are very low and some general workers in the private sector are getting better salaries than even headmasters of top schools and colleges in Zimbabwe. I really wonder why it is a requirement for teachers to have some diplomas and degrees because their salaries don’t match with these degrees.
Teachers are always seen walking long distances everyday going to their schools and back home since they cannot afford to board kombis and buses. These hard working teachers cannot afford to raise transport money as well as buying food for their families. Today’s teachers cannot be compared with counterparts from way back because almost all school headmasters and senior teachers had cars. All latest cars and clothes were first seen at teachers’ homes but its history now.
We have to do something as a nation to retain our teachers most of whom had to cross the borders to look for greener pastures in regional countries while a big number had to go to overseas countries such as Britain and Germany to take up manual jobs such as sweeping and looking after the elderly people at the old peoples homes. We must not forget that we are what we are today as a result of teachers. I am a writer and someone is a doctor, nurse etc. as a result of these teachers they are not respected in society due to the paltry and embarrassing salaries they are earning. I hope to see a change in the future. Eddious Masundire Shumba, Mawani Primary School, Mberengwa.