Chiwenga nursing school closes

The government has closed a nursing school established by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in Chikomba District, Mashonaland East Province, due to disruption caused by Zanu-PF faction conflicts.

The nursing school in Chivhu, opened in 2021 when Chiwenga was also serving as Minister of Health and Child Care, was the brainchild of John Mangwiro, then Chiwenga MP and Chikomba West legislator. It was largely seen as a campaign strategy for Mangwiro, who ultimately lost his seat to Tatenda Mavetera during the Zanu-PF primaries early last year. Mavetera, an ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, won the seat in the disputed August 2023 election and currently serves as Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Postal and Courier Services.

Sources revealed that rival factions within Zanu-PF, aligned with Chiwenga and Mnangagwa, were fighting to control enrollment at the nursing school. This infighting led to the enrollment of over 150 students, far exceeding the school’s capacity of 10, leading to overcrowding and compromising standards set by the Nursing Council of Zimbabwe (NCZ).

The government recently ordered the school closed after determining its operations were poor. Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Sleiman Timios Kwidini confirmed that enrolled students have been transferred to other institutions.

“It is not being closed as such. The problem was that the school was now congested and students were no longer learning properly,” Kwidini told NewsDay. “It needs to be improved so that it has better training capacity. We want to expand and open more schools, and Chivhu is one of them. For now, it does not have the capacity for 10 students.”

Kwidini explained that the school had been closed “temporarily” to regularize its operations. “In preparation for a proper structure, enrolled students have been moved, some to Marondera and other schools,” she said. “We want it to be a larger school, in line with the president’s vision for 2030.”

A Ministry of Health report following a verification visit indicated that the school had been established illegally and raised concerns about over-enrollment. “The school was approved to train 10 registered general nurses (RGN) subject to meeting the requirements of the NCZ,” the report reads in part. “However, according to the responsible guardian, the school has been operating since June 7, 2021, providing accident and emergency training without a legal instrument: the training regulation and the approval of the NCZ.”

Mangwiro declined to comment, saying: “I’m not in government anymore. If they shut it down, so be it. I don’t have a say.” Mavetera was not available for comment.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Health Ministry director was under scrutiny for approving the establishment of the nursing school without the necessary requirements. “There is currently an investigation into why the ministry approved the nursing school when it did not have the necessary requirements, and the director (name provided) is currently under fire for that,” the official told NewsDay. “The last time he was summoned for questioning on the issue, he argued that the former Health Minister (Chiwenga) approved it and acted on his orders.”