Friends & Friction: Why do our leaders die abroad?

2014-11-05 13:45

This happens all too often, and it must stop – now.

It is a shame so many African leaders die in foreign hospitals because their own countries’ health systems are in a shambles.

Last week, Zambian president Michael Sata died in London’s King Edward VII hospital.

Nigerian president Umaru Yar’Adua died in a Saudi Arabian hospital. Zimbabwian President Robert ­Mugabe goes to Singapore for his medical checkups – and that is probably where he is going to die.

Do you think the people who washed president Sata’s body were as respectful as they would have been had they been Zambian? I don’t think so.

In South Africa, working with corpses is sometimes a punishment meted out to criminals.

In April this year, Simon Phillips was found guilty of crimen injuria and sentenced to five years for calling someone a k****r and a baboon.

His sentence was suspended on condition he worked in the mortuary of Chris Hani Bara­gwanath Hospital in Soweto.

Don’t African leaders wish the same high standards of health they find in other, more “developed” countries for the people they lead?

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, it is a shame that under your watch, none of your government hospitals were good enough to care for Nelson Mandela in his last days.

It is a shame that under your watch, Cabinet ministers who have promised South ­Africa “a better life for all” go to private hospitals ­instead of using your hospitals.

As the first part of a health system turn­around, please make a pledge that all Cabinet ministers will from now on use the public health system.

Put your money where your mouth is. A businessperson who cannot back his or her product with a guarantee is a con artist. Likewise, a minister who cannot back the services of his or her department is only a politician and not a servant of the people.

The same is true with education. Angie Motshekga is facing enormous challenges, starting with a destructive teachers’ union down to a department that has gone through more changes than a chameleon.

Now we have an education system that is nothing but a remnant of half-hearted, failed experiments.

The union, which purports to be fighting for a living wage, does not realise it is in fact devaluing the living wage in the long term. If the education system continues to produce low-skilled workers, there is no way they will earn the same salaries as those who are highly skilled.

The minister must take bold steps. Firstly, reverse the insanity introduced by the late education minister Kader Asmal. South African children need to start early at school and not at age seven, because in many cultures across this country, boys are circumcised and become “men” by the age of 16.

Circumcision means they have entered the realm of manhood, and so they must start to fend for themselves.

In the past, it was common to find a 19-year-old who has completed a first degree. That has killed no one.

During her tenure, I hope Motshekga will commission good textbooks in maths and science in all the African languages. I hope the University of Venda will soon ­offer a medical degree in Tshivenda, and that Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape will do the same in isiXhosa.

Then there will be no need for South African politicians to die in private hospitals, or even worse, in foreign countries.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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