Continued vandalism and theft of key equipment, mostly solar panels and related accessories at Beitbridge’s 16 rural clinics, has reportedly worsened the shortage of primary healthcare facilities in the district.
Beitbridge district has an estimated population of 250 000 people, with two thirds living in the rural part of the district where people walk between 20km and 50km to access the nearest health institution.
Members of the community have blamed Beitbridge Rural District Council which owns the infrastructure for failing to act when things were getting out of hand.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, people must not walk for more than 8km to access primary healthcare services.
ZTN understands that the district has 16 clinics with most of them either without drugs, under staffed or inaccessible to many villagers.
Further, in places where power supplies have been tampered with, nursing staff have resorted to moving vaccines which need refrigeration to the main hospital in Beitbridge, and this is creating problems in cases of emergency.
Since the beginning of the year, a syndicate of thieves targeting solar panels has hit Swereki, Lilombe, Mapili and Chamnangana clinics.
In separate interviews, members of the community lambasted the Beitbridge Rural District Council which owns the infrastructure for taking a ‘business as usual’ approach while things were getting out of hand.
Mr Jabulani Makhado, a member of the Vhembe Development Association (made up of rural people from Beitbridge), said the state of affairs in most health centres was now a cause for concern.
“These (health centres) are Rural District Council entities but the local authority is not protecting the infrastructure,” he said.
Beitbridge paramount Chief Vho Stauze (David Mbedzi) said the theft and vandalism of key infrastructure in the district was alarming.
“We are equally disturbed by this trend of theft from the few clinics that we have. We are going to sit down with fellow traditional leaders including the Headmen to map the way forward,” said the traditional leader.
Beitbridge Rural District Council’s chief executive, Mr Peter Moyo said they have engaged the police to beef up security at the health centres and other key infrastructure in the area.