We'd rather be second and accurate than be first and wrong. The Whim News Desk is a dedicated team of researchers and investigators committed to presenting the news without bias. Follow us @TheWhimOnline for daily news coverage without the spin!
The Facts —
- The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Monday saying it had revoked the appointment of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador for the new commission on noncommunicable diseases.
- The announcement came five days after Mugabe’s appointment, which sparked international criticism (see below).
- WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement announcing the discharge:
“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment. I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised. I have also consulted with the Government of Zimbabwe and we have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization.”
The Context —
- On 10 October, the WHO announced the creation of a worldwide commission on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on its website.
- The most prevalent types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and respiratory diseases, according to the WHO.
- The WHO adds:
“NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries where more than three quarters of global NCD deaths – 31 million – occur.”
- At the WHO Global Conference on NCDs in Uruguay on 18 October, Director-General Tedros said he was “honored to announce that President Mugabe [had] agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador…”
- Tedros also said Zimbabwe was “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all.”
International Criticism of Mugabe’s Appointment —
- The US State Department responded to Mugabe’s appointment, telling the Associated Press:
“This appointment clearly contradicts the United Nations ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity.”
- The NCD Alliance, an international NGO focused on global NCD policies, released a statement condemning Mugabe’s appointment:
“Members of the NCD civil society movement present at the conference are shocked and deeply concerned to hear of this appointment, given President Mugabe’s long track record of human rights violations and undermining the dignity of human beings.
Given these systematic abuses and his approach to NCDs and tobacco control in the past, NCD civil society present in Montevideo believe that President Mugabe’s appointment as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs cannot be justified.”
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told CTV News:
“It is absolutely unacceptable, absolutely inconceivable that his individual would have a role as a goodwill ambassador…
Quite frankly I thought it was a bad April Fool’s joke.”
- Obert Gutu, a spokesman for the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, told The Guardian that the appointment was “laughable.” Gutu added:
“The Zimbabwe health delivery system is in a shambolic state. It is an insult. Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.”
Zimbabwe Under Mugabe —
- On 18 April 1980, Robert Mugabe won Zimbabwe’s national election, becoming the first prime minister of independent Zimbabwe.
- The nation now celebrates Zimbabwe Independence Day on 18 April, and Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), has been in power since, according to South African History Online.
- According to NewsDay, in 2015 there were 1.6 doctors per 10,000 people in Zimbabwe.
- The report added that more than 11 million Zimbabweans, over 90% of the country’s citizens, have no access to medical aid.
- When Mugabe took power in 1980, the maternal mortality rate, or the number of mothers that die during childbirth, was 90 out of 100,000. By 2015, that number had grown to 1,000 out of 100,000.
- Zimbabwe’s government spent $22 per person on healthcare in 2015 — compared to $650 per person in South Africa, $390 in Botswana, and $200 in Angola.
- The Economist argued in a February article that Mugabe “ruined Zimbabwe.”
“Zimbabwe once enjoyed an abundance of natural resources, a booming agricultural sector and a wealth of human capital, but over the past 37 years Mr Mugabe has managed to squander nearly all of it. Almost a quarter of Zimbabweans are currently in need of food assistance and 72% live in poverty. Within a generation, Mr Mugabe has turned an entire country upside down.”
- The Economist blamed Mugabe for the nation’s “economic disaster,” citing his land reform policies starting in 2000.
“He launched ‘fast-track’ land reform and encouraged a violent takeover of white-owned farms, then the backbone of the country’s farming sector. Most of the seized land was given to black farmers who lacked experience with modern agricultural practice; many were chosen on the basis of their connections to Mr Mugabe and his party… Zimbabwe’s farms suddenly faltered—and sent shock waves rippling through the economy. The fiscal situation had been stretched already, with Mr Mugabe having embroiled Zimbabwe in Congo’s civil war. His central bank began printing money faster, to pay off debts and compensate war veterans, seen as an important pillar of Mr Mugabe’s support, and to offset higher prices caused by the farms’ failure. The spiral quickly spun out of control. At one point in 2008 inflation hit the rate of 231,000,000%.”
Mugabe’s Political History and Future —
- In February, Mugabe told state-owned Sunday Mail:
“The majority of the people feel that there is no replacement; (a) successor who to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am.”
- Mugabe, 93, plans to run for reelection in 2018, according to USA Today.
- Zimbabwe presidents serve five-year terms. Mugabe won the 2013 election with 61% of the vote, but opposition leaders claim the vote was rigged.
- Tsvangirai, the 2013 opposition candidate, claimed:
“The fraudulent and stolen election has plunged Zimbabwe into a constitutional, political and economic crisis. Instead of celebration, there is national mourning.”
- Zimbabwe’s 2008 election resulted in nationwide violence.
- Zimbabwe has a two-round presidential election. The nation holds a second round if no candidate receives a majority in the first round.
- In the first round of 2008, the candidate for the MDC (the main opposition party to Mugabe) won 47.87% of the vote. Mugabe received 43.24%.
- Mugabe’s government responded to the first-round loss by inciting violence against MDC supporters, according to the New York Times.
- Tsvangirai, the MDC candidate, refused to participate in the second round of the election because of the attacks on his supporters, according to the New York Times.
- The US State Department published a report on Zimbabwe’s government-sponsored violence in 2008. According to the report, political violence resulted in 193 deaths, with 200 more reported missing and presumed dead, including “widespread” reports of politically-motivated abductions.
“By year’s end over 193 citizens had been killed in political violence that targeted members of the opposition party. The MDC claimed that approximately 200 other members and supporters were missing and presumed dead at year’s end…
There were numerous reports of politically motivated abductions during the year. MDC leaders reported that state security agents and ZANU-PF party supporters abducted and tortured hundreds of opposition and civil society members, as well as student leaders, as part of a systematic government-sponsored campaign to dismantle the opposition party’s structures before the March 29 election and, especially, immediately preceding the June 27 presidential run-off. In the majority of cases, victims were abducted from their homes or off the streets by a group of unidentified assailants, driven to remote locations, interrogated and tortured for one or two days, and abandoned.”
- Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, told USA Today:
“[Mugabe] is not ready to leave office during his lifetime.”
William Spruance contributed to this report.