Editorial: Ekusileni Hospital must not die

Reports that plans are underway to reopen Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo could not have come at a better time for a region reeling from company closures and unprecedented job losses.

Southern Eye Editorial

The hospital built over a decade ago, is a brainchild of Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, who was unhappy that he had to travel as far as Egypt to seek specialist medical treatment.

Ekusileni is just one of several projects the visionary politician had mooted in Matabeleland and beyond to better the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, but sadly none of the initiatives have lived up to expectations because of several reasons. Even projects that were initiated by the government such as the Joshua Mqabuko International Airport and statues that were supposed to be erected in Bulawayo and Harare in his honour remain distant dreams.

The fact that the African Union has honoured Nkomo posthumously before we could do it ourselves in a meaningful way, is a serious indictment on the government and those who claim to cherish the nationalist’s legacy. Nkomo must be turning in his grave because nothing visible has been done to ensure that his legacy lives on.

Therefore, reports that the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) is keen to inject $80 million to revive Ekusileni Hospital, 24 years after it was closed, must come as big relief to many people.

According to Nkomo’s vision, this will be a state-of-the-art medical institution with facilities for a medical school specialising in physiotherapy and pathology.
In other words’ the hospital will be the first of its kind in Zimbabwe and the fact that it will be based in this region is enough reason to celebrate.

DBSA has attached conditions to the funds, requiring a government guarantee to secure its loan, which will be released in two tranches of $50 million and $30 million. DBSA expressed interest in funding the debt portion, subject to equity participation by strategic investors, including an operator for the facility.

The bank is already involved in the rehabilitation of the Plumtree-Mutare Highway in which it has committed $206 million. DBSA’s commitment to the road projects gives us hope that this is not just another empty promise meant to raise false hope.

Political will has been the missing link and we are encouraged to see that the government is involved in the initiative to resuscitate the hospital.

The hospital would have been operating normally by now if there was political will to have it running. The ball is now in the government’s court to ensure that DBSA will get all the guarantees it needs for it to release the money so that potential investors are assured Ekusileni will not become a battle ground for politicians once again.

The successful reopening of the hospital will be a big tribute for a man who spent his entire life fighting for the emancipation of the poor. Ekusileni Hospital must not be allowed to die.

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