Blantyre Kabula legislator Rashid Gaffar has inscribed his name on three ambulances belonging to the Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) purportedly because he used his personal resources to maintain the vehicles owned by the Malawi Government.
The legislator paraded the three Toyota Landcruiser vehicles in a road show across the constituency for people to appreciate his gesture.
Gaffar on Saturday brought the vehicles bearing registration numbers MG697AF, MG973AC and MG169AB at a political rally he addressed at Chirimba Primary School ground. He also took the vehicles to Mbayani and Machinjiri townships in his constituency yesterday.
The vehicles, which the member of Parliament (MP) said would serve at three centres of Mbayani, Chirimba and South Lunzu, have been inscribed ‘Restored by Honourable Rashid Gaffar’ on the sides.
In a telephone interview yesterday, the MP confirmed branding the government ambulances, but said there was nothing wrong in proclaiming his contribution towards the maintenance of the vehicles.
He said: “You have to look at the positive side of this matter.
“I used my money to put them back on the road so that people can benefit from them. Just like anyone would put their name on what they have spent their money on.
“These vehicles had no tyres, no rims and other spare parts. I do not see anything wrong with that.”
But when asked to clarify on the terms under which the ambulances were maintained, Blantyre district commissioner (DC) Bennet Nkasala expressed ignorance on the branding. He said, ideally, the vehicles should be returned to the DHO for allocation.
Said the DC: “As a council, we invited people willing to assist in the maintenance of ambulances.
“However, there was no branding agreement… I do not know about this branding thing.”
But Nkasala’s explanation contradicted what Blantyre district health officer Gift Kawalazira said that the move was sanctioned by a full meeting of the Blantyre District Council.
However, health rights activist Maziko Matemba said the MP’s action was against Ministry of Health donation policy which he said does not allow the branding of government property by people supporting existing programmes.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said his ministry was not in charge of district facilities, but councils were.
In November 2018, The Nation reported that public health facilities were in an ambulance crisis as random cases were cited in Chiradzulu, Ntchisi, Kasungu, Mzimba and Rumphi.
Currently, the ambulance status in most public health facilities does not match the recommended population to ambulance ratio of 1:50 000. n