Simukai Chigudu,

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I’ve been asked what I think of #MugabeAtWHO a few times & despite writing my PhD on health politics in #Zimbabwe I’m not sure what to say

It was obviously a political choice on the part of @DrTedros & a nod to a particular kind of pan-Africanist sentiment

No surprises that this was a PR disaster! But one question I have is: how & why are different commentators justifying their outrage?

Make no mistake: #Zimbabwe’s health system, once the best in Africa, collapsed under #Mugabe’s leadership esp during the 2000s

HIV, cholera, malnutrition, maternal mortality & TB rates have all been devastating while life expectancy plummeted in this period

Most notoriously in 2008, #Mugabe downplayed the true extent of a catastrophic cholera outbreak that infected tens of thousands

And let’s not forget violence meted out against a multitude of Zimbabweans from the coercive apparatus of the state for partisan purposes

So yes, it is farcical to appoint him a ‘goodwill’ ambassador for health

At the same, I fear that much #Mugabe bashing comes from a visceral hatred of the man and not out of concern for the health of Zimbabweans

It is not secret that much coverage of Zim politics in the West is mired in racist tropes about a ‘despotic’ & ‘tyrannical’ African leader

This is too simplistic & belies a more complex political reality & fails to contextualise why #Mugabe’s corrals pan-Africanist support

Moreover, @DrTedros was right to point out #Zimbabwe’s commitment to health equity as of the 2013 constitution BUT…

…this was the work of committed activists in the country as well as dedicated civil servants in the #Zimbabwean government

After all, the country is not defined by just one man! So, let’s acknowledge the efforts made by many to improve health conditions in Zim..

@ remember it’s not a single story about one man but rather a complex story about a range of people negotiating difficult politics…

…in a valiant effort to improve health even in the midst of the most hostile political-economic conditions

Read: Why I have revoked Mugabe’s appointment as Goodwill Ambassador-WHO Director General

 

Chigudu is Profiled on twitter as Departmental Lecturer in Development Studies at @ODID_QEH @UniofOxford African Politics & Global Health

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