The British government’s hypocrisy over the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is jaw-dropping. Gordon Brown has said that “enough is enough” and that the United Nations security council should meet to discuss action against Robert Mugabe’s government.
The current regime may be disastrous, but Western intervention in Zimbabwe has always made things worse. Zimbabwe was a British colony. When white settlers declared independence in 1965 to maintain their racist privileges, there was no British intervention in the interests of the country’s black majority.
After a guerrilla war defeated the racist state in 1980, a health service was launched modelled on the British NHS.
In the following decade, average life expectancy rose from 55 to 60 years, child malnutrition fell from 22 percent to 12 percent and infant mortality dropped from 100 to 53 deaths per thousand live births.
In 1987 the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund held Zimbabwe up as a model for public healthcare.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank imposed a structural adjustment programme on the country in 1991. This demanded the marketisation of health, despite the success of the existing service.
Health provision for ordinary people has declined ever since.
Zimbabwe needs help, but not from the people whose policies began the crisis.