This is not a holiday: the right health minister is a ...

Ideas

This is not a holiday: the right health minister is a life-and-death matter

Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and the tourism minister takes over the health portfolio. It beggars belief

Columnist

A few minutes before being wheeled into the operating theatre earlier this month, my doctor came to do his final briefing. “Good luck,” I said, as he turned to leave. The maxilla-facial surgeon looked at me with a slight puzzle in his face. Then he put his hand on my shoulder and said this: “Don’t worry. It’s what I do.” If I had any nerves, they were now settled.

My nerves were thoroughly rattled this week when the president appointed the minister of tourism as the acting health minister to replace the scandal-ridden Dr Zweli Mkhize. Before the announcement, a politically astute colleague at another university had warned me: “The problem is not getting rid of Mkhize; it’s who replaces him that worries me.” We have reason to worry.

Whatever Mkhize might have done wrong to be placed on special leave, at least he was a medical doctor by profession. When he appeared alongside his friend, infectious diseases expert Prof Salim Karim, in those early briefings on the pandemic, we felt reassured as a nation. These two men had studied medicine together at the University of Natal, as it was then called. Healing is what they do...

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