David Parirenyatwa (right), Zimbabwe's Health Minister, seen here with Christopher Dell, then US Ambassador to Zimbabwe. He is struggling to buy medical supplies for his wife, who was injured in a car accident
Dr Parirenyatwa, Zimbabwe's current (and illegal) health minister, came face to face with the collapse of the health system last week after his wife was hit in a car accident, sustaining injuries to her leg and ribs.
Parirenyatwa first took his wife to The Avenues Clinic, the private hospital in Harare that is still totally functional. When they demanded upfront payment of US$2000, which he could not afford, he took his wife to Parirenyatwa hospital, named after the Health Minister's late father.
Sources at the state hospital, once one of the best hospitals in Africa, say the Health Minister's wife is still at the hospital and he was still trying to come up with the money needed to buy special "wires" to mend the fractures his wife sustained in the accident. Doctors can't operate until these are available. There are none at the state hospitals, so Parirenyatwa has to buy them himself.
The staff there have their own grievances against the minister, whom they say is blocking an offer from the Global Fund to pay medical staff directly in foreign currency. But they are also not too happy that, after his wife was admitted, the Health Minister brought in a kilogramme of beef and asked staff to prepare that for his wife. "What about everyone else in all these wards who is eating boiled cabbage and sadza? Should we prepare beef for his wife while everyone else eats cabbage?" asked one senior nurse at the hospital.
Parirenyatwa has been very candid of late about the state of collapse that the system is in and it is ironic that he should be experiencing this first hand. I could not establish today whether the minister has finally found the money to buy the supplies needed to med his wife's leg and ribs. Without them, the doctors can not even operate o the woman.
This story only serves to illustrate that the financial crisis in the country is now touching even Mugabe's own circle, people who have been doing nicely all along, with access to cheap foreign currency and the good things in life.
Before long, buying the loyalty of this Praetorian Guard is going to get increasingly difficult for Mugabe and that is when things start to get interesting. The hitherto rumblings of discontent are soon to turn into howls. Then when this inner circle lives like we live, they will realise that they have all along been protecting the worm as it ate away at the core of the apple.