|Deputy Prime Minister Khupe Talks about Education and Health|
Support education, health
Following a countrywide tour of education and health facilities, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe (DPM) highlights the deterioration of the two sectors in this interview. She also talks about restrictive measures and reform of the security forces.
Q: You went around the country looking at the health and education institutions; please tell us what you saw?
DPM: My office is responsible for the social and rights sector and my main objective of the tour was to make a general assessment of what is happening in the education and health sectors. What I can say is that the situation out there is not looking good. The situation is dire and desperate. Education and health are supposed to be the backbone of our future leaders. These sectors are indicators of how the economy is performing. Without health and education you cannot say you have an economy. Literally, everything in those hospitals is not working. There are no blankets. No food. Stoves are not working. You go to a big hospital like the one in Victoria Falls, a resort area and you find that almost everything there is not working. If tourists were to come and were to be involved in a road traffic accident, how would you attend to them? They would have to be driven to Bulawayo about 500km away and they get to Mpilo Hospital which has almost similar appalling conditions. It is high time these hospitals start working again. That applies to our schools as well. Zimbabwe used to have the highest literacy rate in Africa.
But go to our schools right now, kids sit on the floor, no desks, no chairs, and no books. Nothing! The situation is so desperate and it is important that these two sectors are attended to as a matter of urgency.
Q. What next after your findings?
DPM: We are embarking on a serious fundraising campaign for health and education. I am now talking to many people, including at embassies. I am going to talk to all business people to come in and assist. From Zimbabwe I am going to move regionally and internationally to raise funds for the two sectors. It is also high time the private sector played a role in running these institutions. This is why we want to get into public-private sector partnerships. There has been a vacuum between the Government and the business sector and we cannot continue operating like that. As Government we must continuously consult with them on our programs. Once businesses generate surplus income, they will develop an interest in wanting to assist. But at the moment they are being oppressed, they are being suffocated and they will not want to part with their money. So we need to create a good working relationship between the Government and business. Most of the businesses collapsed because of the policies that the previous Government set. We are supposed to be moving together with them. At the end of the day, they would be willing to assist. We should rope in the communities as well. There is shortage of manpower so the communities must take turns to ensure that they come and clean hospitals while the Government comes in with medicines and staff, such as doctors and nurses.
DPM: Hope is there. What was lacking was for the Government to know what was happening in those areas. When I went around they said it was the first time to see a person of my stature coming to make a general assessment of the situation. Now that I know what is happening in those sectors, I am able to do something. That is why I said I am running around to fundraise. I have tabled my report in Cabinet and I have said we need to get these two sectors working again because they are a benchmark to see whether an economy is functioning properly or not.
Q: What was Cabinet's response to your report?
DPM: They really appreciate that something has to be done in these critical sectors. Now action is what I want to see because just talking about the report without acting on it will get us nowhere. We want to see the Minister of Finance allocating money to the education and health sectors in the next budget. I believe when he presents his Budget (estimates of expenditure and income for 2010) in November, he will make sure that education and health sectors are given a large chunk.
Q: What positive changes has your office brought to ordinary Zimbabweans since you took office?
DPM: As you know that hospitals and schools had closed, now they are open although most of them are not operating at 100 percent. The fact that they have just opened and are serving ordinary Zimbabweans is a great positive move. But I must hasten to say I know pretty well that we have a problem of not remunerating well, doctors, nurses and teachers, among other public servants. That is a major hiccup for the Government. That Zimbabweans now have hope and that we have people who are willing to move this country forward, people who are willing to be moving with us making sure that things happen, that is positive. When I went to Chinhoyi University, the Pro-Vice Chancellor said to me, even if you may not be able to assist immediately because of the financial constraints, the fact that you came to us, and made this assessment, that is very important to us. It is because I saw and I touched the problems they are going through. I felt them and I know exactly what they are going through. For example, a university which is supposed to come up with graduates, they do not have books, they have just a few computers. We need to be moving with time. Students must be able to access the Internet and do their research, but a whole university with just six computers for about 3000 students. Honestly, how do you work?
Q: Let's move for the moment from the health and education sectors, if we may. It appears there has been slow movement in terms of dealing with issues of freedoms, human rights and lawlessness. What is your office doing about it?
DPM: This is another sector that I am in charge of. It's true that progress is very slow, but we have been trying to push the Ministers to make sure that these reforms are done. But I am being told that Draft Bills have been done. So as soon as Parliament resumes sitting, those Bills will be tabled.
Q: But the problem in Zimbabwe seem not to be about absence of good laws. It is about failure to respect the existing laws, bad though one may decide to call them. As late as last week some soldiers defied a High Court order empowering a commercial farmer to take his movable assets from a farm seized by an army brigadier-general. It seems defiance continues to be the order of the day. What is the Government doing about that?
DPM: The (Global Political Agreement) GPA says it is important that we reform all these institutions, such as the army, the police and the judiciary. But I think reforming them is taking quiet a while. We need to transform them. They have been operating under a different set up or under a different Government. They still have a mentality of them operating under that old Zanu PF government, yet things have changed. These people must be educated and told to reform. We want to see the rule of law being observed. We want the law to be followed because no one is supposed to be above the law. This is why we have these restrictive measures. It is because these people (the West) see that there is no change at all. Why were these restrictive measures imposed? It was for a reason. We must do what is necessary for these restrictive measures to be lifted. We must not give these people an excuse to justify not lifting the restrictive measures. Once we respect the rule of law, respect property rights and respect humanity, there won't be any reason to keep the restrictive measures in place. The army is supposed to know that its role is to defend Zimbabwe in the event that we are attacked by an enemy and not to harass citizens. While the police must make that Zimbabwean live in a peaceful environment where they are not scared of thieves or murderers. Police must assist where the Sheriff or the Deputy Sheriff wants to lawfully effect an eviction.
Q: That brings us back to our issue of fundraising. Will this lawlessness not affect your funding raising exercise?
Q: Suppose someone would ask, what does Thokozani Khupe do as a Deputy Prime Minister, what would be the answer?
DPM: My office is responsible for the social sector. My responsibility is to make sure that all the ministries that fall under me are operating effectively and meet the key result areas we set up. I want to see that the targets are met and if there is a problem, I want to know what it is s we can find solutions. Zimbabweans need to get out of the circle of poverty. I am doing a supervisory role, kind of. I think what was lacking was supervision. Being on their doorstep every now and then.
Q: Earlier on you talked about legislative reforms. Can you enlighten us a little bit?