This paper focuses on the challenges of the post-colonial era in Zimbabwe, which is marked by failed leadership and poor policies that have extended devastating consequences in the country’s structure. Of major focus is the unequal access to the health care system in the country and the causes of the phenomenon that which include the departure of talented professionals, economic decline, corruption, reliance on foreign aid, and flawed patriotism. The paper also discusses the ways to improve access to medical services in the country through a far-reaching overhaul of the country’s entire leadership structure.
Colonialism is the word that invokes bad memories in different parts of third world and people who have lived through this process. Thus, colonialism is a “policy or practice of acquiring full or partial control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically”. However, ‘colonialism’ derives from the ancient Roman word ‘colonia’ that means to farm or settle. The term largely acquired its new meaning since the beginning of the 15th century, when the Portuguese and Spanish began exploring the world and the results of their actions gave way to colonialism. Poverty is a “state of being poor, inferior in quality, or insufficient in amount”. The ordinary assumption associates the word to a state of material insufficiency. The term itself has a broader meaning than the usual status of material attachment, especially in third world countries like Zimbabwe. The problems and failures most third world countries experience, like Zimbabwe in the post-colonial period, are the result of mismanagement of the countries’ resources by the ruling class through implementing the policies that do not reflect the reality of third world standards.
For about 400 years of European colonization, most third world countries, especially in Africa, underwent a transformation that was partly responsible for the continent’s problems. Africa was the cradle of human civilization, and nothing could have interfered with that direction apart from colonialism. The continent should have been different had it not been for the four centuries of occupation by European imperialists. The continent lost its most talented and capable population to slavery at a time when their contribution should have precisely influenced the continent’s present. For example, it is estimated that about four to five thousand people were taken to slavery from Ghana every year for about 400 years. It was a huge population that not a single colonial power could have survived. Slavery led to the period of stagnation in the development of Africa and most of the third world for the four centuries it existed, which forever changed the course of the continent to its modern state.
After dividing Africa into the zones of influence in 1885, a period of extreme exploitation began. Africans were forced to exploit their land and work for the colonial imperialists, leaving them no opportunity to develop their communities. Lovejoy has noted that “slavery was extensively used in production, the reinforcement of political power, or domestic servitude”. Most communities were assimilated through false cultural classes that eroded away most of their African principles, eventually giving rise to a mixed character that did not represent the fabric of African civilization. Therefore, it effectively erased any positive development on the continent, which contributed to the current irrelevance in the failed leadership and rising poverty in the countries like Zimbabwe
The present state of the health care system in Zimbabwe is in total collapse. The reason behind the disintegration is the broken economic structure of the country, and it has only accelerated in the past few years. The Southern African nation’s health care system does not fit the African setting, which leaves it, and most third world countries, dependent on the western support and supplies to run. Its financial system was designed with colonial intentions, like in most countries of the continent, making them barely independent and exposed to the western manipulation. Such a situation has seen the country run out of foreign reserves that are necessary for international trade. In other words, it cannot afford to buy medicine and equipment to service its population and pay attractive salaries to medical workers, who have left to find work elsewhere, while most of them end up in European countries.
The trend persists even after colonization in most third world countries, leaving the continent without its best medical workers. Thus, the World Health Organization (WHO) requires that a density indicator of 2.28 medical experts should be available every 1000 people as a minimum requirement for public health access. It should be noted that Zimbabwe fails to meet this criterion. The scarcely available medical resources only serve the political elite or anyone who can bribe the system to be served. Thus, the research by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) found that “62% of Zimbabweans have paid a bribe to the…health and medical services”, and that is an alarmingly high percentage.
Zimbabwe has lost many of its professionals to other foreign countries in the last 10 years. Like in every sector of the economy, health care has lost a significant percentage of professionals, which makes it barely capable of delivering much needed medical services to the population. The departure of talents is an acute shift from the nation’s top-rated performance in the medical sector before and after colonization. Research carried out by Gupta and Poz has found that 41% of physicians, 7% of nurses, and 10% of midwifes report dual employment, which reflects the health care system’s inability to compensate its more highly trained staff sufficiently. At the same time, quite many public health workers who have not yet left the country choose to work in the private sector. The private sector pays higher salaries at the expense of the public that cannot afford high-end medical services. It should be noted that this trend was not a part of the African heritage before colonization.
The economic meltdown in Zimbabwe has not only led to the total collapse of the economy but it has also accelerated the rate, at which professionals flee the country. Kollar and Buyx observe that most of the experts migrate to relocate to change their economic environment by finding better employment prospects, ensuring the economic security of their families and the ability to give a good education to their children. The rate of migration has accelerated as the country plunges into deep economic uncertainty, leaving few professionals behind as they can only serve a small percentage of the population. The Zimbabwean government has tried to cast blame on western alienation, which does not reflect reality. Professionals from every part of the world travel to wherever they like in search of opportunities, which applies to Zimbabwe too. Therefore, there is no reasonable claim to state that international recruitment is unethical, but rather, it is the version of colonial leadership, under which Mugabe was raised and educated, as in all third world countries.
According to the recent corruption rankings by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), Zimbabwe ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world, as this position is a product of colonialism and the established economic system that does not represent African interests. Corruption is the leading factor behind the failures of most third world economies because, “corruption undermines economic prospects by distorting incentives, degrades social costs through inequity and injustice, and supports an authoritarian political system that undercuts popular rule”. According to Dreher and Herzfeld, corrupt states have lower GDP growth rate and investment rates compared to less corrupt countries. Thus, for this exact reason, medical personnel flee the country in large numbers because there are not enough financial resources in the country to attract and maintain their expertise.
Zimbabwe was a vibrant country after the end of the colonial era, and most descendants of the colonial rulers stayed behind and accepted the country as their homeland. However, they did this not in the interest of their country as they wanted to continue the exploitation of the country’s people and its resources. President Mugabe’s failed policies, spreading false information, and the growing anger that settlers owned more land heralded the end of economic stability in the country. Misinformation led to flawed nationalism, patriotism and hatred that saw settlers flee the country, leaving a huge vacuum that locals had been unable to fill up to present times.
Decolonization was a good start, but the government took the wrong approach that could be justified in the current condition of the country and global ethics. The agricultural and financial sectors suffered a major setback because white farmers had held a large percentage of the nation’s agricultural activity, amounting to 60% of the nation’s economy and creating thousands of jobs, thus supporting the economy. At the same time, as Mlambo has claimed, “Mugabe backed violent firm invasions that drove white farmers and farm laborers off the land”. Most of these farmers settled in other African countries and Europe. As a result, the country lost a big part of its major source of finance, leading to the rising levels of poverty and the suffocation of its health care system.
Currently, Zimbabwe depends on foreign aid to acquire medical supplies because the country does not have the reserves to carry out international trade, which leaves it exposed to pressure and manipulation from its former colonial masters, in what now exists as neocolonialism. Such dependency means that supplies are not enough, and only the ones who can afford them are served. Second, the corrupt system finds opportunities to steal much-needed resources that can be directed to the health care reform system since corruption is ripe in all third world countries, a classic example of the actions of the colonialists. Lastly, countries, which depend on foreign aid, may never be able to function independently. The current leadership cannot reform the system to reverse the decline, rather the opposite.
Overhauling the economic climate in the country is the foundation of a broad framework of reforming the health care system. A vibrant economy will bring enough financial resources to revamp the system. The government will be able to secure a sufficient amount of medical supplies for the entire population, pay medical workers attractive salaries to boost their morale and retain them. Destructive policies have to be reversed through making changes to the political system to bring in the leaders who understand the ethics and principles of good governance.
The rate of corruption in Zimbabwe is among the highest ones in the world. Corruption deprives the citizens of the right and access to basic social service like health care at the expense of a few ruling class elites. A country rich in minerals, whose fortunes should be directed to the development of the public good, building hospitals, acquiring medical supplies, and paying staff, ends up in foreign accounts run by corrupt leaders who flourish under the leadership of Mugabe. The World Bank has named “corruption as the new archenemy of development”. Any reform towards improved and equal access to the Zimbabwean health care system must eradicate corruption.
Zimbabwe’s unequal access to the health care system is self-made through the poor management of the country’s resources and reliance on foreign expertise that does not fit the African setting and third world. Experts in the medical sector have left the country in big numbers due to the poor economic conditions that cannot guarantee good pay, corruption, and destructive policies. Poverty is on the rise with no will within the political system to reform the country. The medical sector, like any other in the country, cannot meet the needs of its population. Reforming the system will require a strong leadership through carrying out dynamic reforms to fight corruption and bring to justice those responsible for the catastrophic decline of the country. There is the necessity in formulating new economic reforms that should be implemented to create the sources of income for the country to strengthen the health care system and other sectors.
Colonialism was a tragic period in the history of humanity that wiped out about four centuries of development in third world countries. However, there is no proof nor justification to associate the entirety of Zimbabwe’s failures to the effects of colonialism. After the period of colonization, most countries emerged successful, clearly underscoring the irrelevant claim that most failed states associated to colonialism. Most of the country’s problems are self-made through the blind, dictatorial, and careless leadership of Robert Mugabe and his administration, a similar trend in most nations of third world.