Cancer levy welcome but…


HARARE – There is no doubt that cancer has become one of the biggest killer diseases in Zimbabwe and the rest of the world.

Any move that is aimed at reducing the rate at which the disease is taking precious lives would be most welcome.

For quite a long time many activists have been campaigning for the recognition of the disease as a national priority so that resources can be channelled to its treatment and prevention.

What most people are not comfortable with is not whether or not resources should be allocated to it but where those resources will come from.

The very idea of a levy sparks protests from those who will contribute to the fund who are already burdened and in the majority of cases living on what some have described as “hand to mouth” budgets.

The upsurge in cancer cases is linked to HIV and Aids as most of the cases are secondary to the pandemic.

This naturally brings to the fore questions on the effectiveness of other levies such as Aids Levy in dealing with the HIV and Aids pandemic.

Reports on how the funds have been used have not been encouraging as the National Aids Council (NAC) has been accused of failing to use the funds to significantly improve the welfare of people living with HIV and Aids.

Up to this very day not all people who must be on Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) have been taken on board.

Some press reports indicate that NAC has failed to provide anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) to more a than half a million people living with the disease who end up switching to some drug combinations which can complicate their health and endanger their lives.

Most people who bear the brunt of such taxes will not be comfortable with another tax whose proceeds they are not clear on how it will be used.

Worker groups from across the union divide have vehemently vowed to resist any further taxation of the already overtaxed and impoverished working class in the country through direct and indirect tax.

Some of the taxes that are collected by organisations such as National Social Security Authority (NSSA) have also been invested in risky banks, something that makes workers very sceptical about how some of the funds will be used.

The intentions might be noble but the implementation has not been that good.

To complicate the situation is the fact that the majority of workers in the country are now in the informal sector where they will not make any contributions to such levies but at the same time benefit from the funds.

It means the burden will squarely rest on the few who are still formally employed.

While there is no doubt that health issues need to be addressed in a holistic manner so that each and every Zimbabwean has access to quality healthcare it is the funding mechanisms and the implementation that need to be revised.

As things stand an average worker is earning a salary that is way below the poverty datum line meaning that they too cannot afford quality healthcare and what more about funding it?

The government should find innovative ways to fund the national health system in order to safeguard the lives of the most vulnerable groups in society.

This is more urgent for the  government because the new Constitution guarantees health as a right which should be enjoyed by every citizen.

If citizens have no access to a functioning and efficient health system it means that the government would have abdicated on its constitutional obligations.

National Cancer Alliance of Zimbabwe director Nelson Ngwaru’s sentiments that Thokozani Khupe has jumped the gun by moving the motion in parliament without consultation is highly misplaced.

In fact she is the right person to talk about it because she understands the trauma that a cancer patient goes through.

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