The Presidency’s Assault on the Sick

By Alfredo Muvuma


On August 6, a young man, whose name Maka Angola withholds for safety reasons, burdened his family with a US$ 25,000 bill. The amount was to be paid to the Multiperfil Clinic in Luanda for three days of in-patient malaria treatment.

The clinic was formally established in 2002 by the Council of Ministers, by Decree 33/02, for “the rendering of public services.” The same decree also assigned to the clinic the category of public institution, directly accountable to the government and the Presidency of the Republic. Through Resolution 09/02, president José Eduardo dos Santos granted his own office the power to directly oversee the clinic.

More recently, in 2010, president Dos Santos certified Multiperfil Clinic as a body of the Military Bureau of the Presidency (Casa Militar), on the same level as the Presidential Security Unit (USP) and the Presidential Guard Unit (UGP). This powerful institution, second only to the president himself, is headed by the minister of State, general Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa,” who is in effect the supervisor of Multiperfil Clinic.

The Patient

On August 3, the young man, feeling sick, went to Multiperfil for medical care. For the initial procedures, including blood and other tests, the clinic charged exactly 121,338 kwanzas, equivalent to US$ 1,213 at the exchange rate used by the hospital. The laboratory tests established that he had cerebral malaria. The hospital demanded an immediate deposit of US$ 4,000 for his admission to intensive care. As it was late at night, the clinic relented and agreed that the deposit could be made early next day, Friday, August 4. The family proceeded accordingly and deposited the amount requested by the clinic.

For the following two days (Saturday and Sunday), the hospital charged the full amount of the deposit for the treatment rendered. On Monday morning, August 6, the management of the clinic demanded further payment from the family. This time around in the value of US$ 20,184. This amount was due for three days in the President’s clinic. A clerk at the clinic added a written notice to the bill: “current due balance, subject to alteration as the patient remains in hospital”.

The facsimiles of the bills that Maka Angola has partly reproduced show the cost of the treatment, less the sum paid initially as a deposit.

The Military Bureau has thus been transformed into a for-profit branch of the Presidency of the Republic. The presidency threatens to take legal action against those who do not have the means to pay the absurd costs of its services.

Multiperfil’s prices are prohibitive even for the president, should he be interested in supporting the costs of a stay in the hospital of more than two days for a relative or a friend. The president earns a monthly salary equivalent to US $ 7,750, the highest of any public official.

Notwithstanding this reality, Dos Santos, continues to present himself as someone concerned with Angolans’ well being. The case of the young man treated in a clinic for which the president is directly responsible offers an opportunity to evaluate the health programme that forms part of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) electoral program for the upcoming generals elections, to be held on August 31 this year. The head of the state is also the president of MPLA, and he has been holding both offices for 33 years.

The MPLA’s Promises

The MPLA’s 2012 Electoral Manifesto and the corresponding Program of Government promise the paradise to Angolans. From education to culture, from transport to agriculture, the MPLA makes promises that, if they were to be realized, would give Angolans a standard of living equal or superior to that of most developed countries.

The ruling party sets itself the challenge of “improving the quality of life of all Angolans, with more jobs, better salaries, better buying-power, and more access to quality public services, and especially education, health, transportation and security.”

In the area of health, for example, the MPLA promises, for the next five years:
– “To guarantee universal access to and use of heath services based on primary health care access;
– To strengthen the system and the National Health Service, with the municipality as the centre of activity;
– To preserve the National Health Service as the guarantor of people’s health, with the private sector acting in a complementary manner and in accordance with national health policy;
– To promote initiatives aimed at raising staff ethics and professionalism.”

These promises however, are nothing but a way to capture the votes of the Angolans. Under the MPLA regime, medical assistance and access to medication has increasingly become the privilege of only a few. These few do not even receive their medical care in Angola. Rather, they prefer to go to South Africa, Brazil, England, Portugal and the United States – the favorite countries for the Angolan elite with access to state funding to pay for their medical treatment abroad.