Original Research

The politicisation of health in Zimbabwe: The case of the cholera epidemic, August 2008-March 2009

Clement Masakure
New Contree | Vol 80 | a79 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/nc.v80i0.79 | © 2023 Clement Masakure | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2023 | Published: 30 July 2018

About the author(s)

Clement Masakure, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Abstract

In this article the case of the August 2008 to March 2009 cholera epidemic is used to examine the intersections between health and politics in Zimbabwe. The focus is on the different narratives deployed by the mainstream opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change under Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU -PF) to explain the causes of, and responses to the cholera epidemic which emerged in the immediate aftermath of the disputed June 2008 presidential runoff. An analyses of how regional governments, especially South Africa, responded to the cholera outbreak is made. The opposition argued that the epidemic was a clear indicator of government’s mismanagement. On the other hand, public intellectuals aligned to ZANU-PF and government ministers invoked conspiracy theories and blamed external forces for the epidemic. South Africa and the region saw it through a humanitarian crisis lens. In the discussion the varied narratives explaining the causes of the outbreak and responses to the cholera epidemic exposed ongoing internal and external political contestations are noted. The epidemic seems to have become inextricably entangled with discourses revolving around political governance, human rights problems and the struggles over political power between the ruling party and opposition parties.

Keywords

Zimbabwe; Cholera; Public health; Politics; Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front; Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai; South Africa

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