A dedicated presidential health unit, as announced initially by Vice President Inonge Wina and explained in depth by Health Minister Dr Joseph Kasonde, is an unnecessary waste of resources which could be channelled to the health sector for the benefit of all citizens.In announcing government’s intention in parliament, Dr Kasonde said such a body would be headed by a person who would be appointed by the president including other support staff adding that appointing a Physician to the President is the best way to institutionalize an autonomous office to look into the health of a sitting Republican President and future Heads of State.
However, the current Zambian constitution contains clauses of what ought to be done should a president get into a situation where he would need medical assessment. Some countries such as South Africa may have a presidential health unit simply because they can afford it and they have enough medical manpower for all citizens.
As it is, the Zambian health sector is in a critical state which forces presidents and those who are well connected to be evacuated for treatment outside the country. With a presidential health unit in place, it is clear that the necessary resources that would otherwise towards revamping the sector for the benefit of the rest of the population will be channelled towards the new unit.
Here is part of what I wrote on Africa Hadithi sometime last year:
What the constitution states in full:
(1) If it is resolved by a majority of all the members of the Cabinet that the question of the physical or mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions ofhis office ought to be investigated, and they so inform the Chief Justice, then the Chief Justice shall appoint a board consisting of not less than three persons selected by him from among persons who are qualified as medical practitioners under the law of Zambia or under the law of any other country in the Commonwealth, and the board shall inquire into the matter and report to the Chief Justice on whether or not the President is, by reason of any infirmity of body or mind, incapable of discharging the functions of his office.
(2) If the board reports that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office, the Chief Justice shall certify in writing accordingly and shall table such certificate, with the report of the board before the National Assembly who shall on a motion, passed by a two thirds majority –
(a) ratify the decision of the board, and thereupon the President shall cease to hold office; or
(b) reject the decision of the board and cause a further inquiry into whether or not the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office and shall thereafter decide on such question by a two-thirds majority vote, which decision shall be final.
(3) Where the Cabinet resolves that the question of the physical and mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions of his office should be investigated, the President shall, until another person assumes the office of President or the board appointed under clause (1) reports that the President is not incapable of discharging the functions of his office, whichever is the earlier, cease to perform the functions of his office and those functions shall be performed by-
(a) the Vice-President; or
(b) in the absence of the Vice-President or if the Vice-President is unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to discharge the functions of his office, by such member of the Cabinet as the Cabinet shall elect: Provided that any person performing the functions of the office of President under this clause shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President.
(4) A motion for the purposes of clause (1) may be proposed at any meeting of the Cabinet.
It is a well-known fact that Cabinet is appointed by the president but it is also a fact that Cabinet is supposed to serve the greater good of the nation. If these servants of the people notice that their supervisor, the president is not performing to expectation, they can fall back on the letter of the constitution which allows them to make him rest.