HARARE – Dozens of doctors marched to Parliament on Wednesday with a plea for MPs to help end their three-month work boycott over pay and lack of medicines.
Police have blocked almost all public demonstrations in Harare by the opposition and civil servants in recent months, but the placard-waving doctors were allowed to walk from Parirenyatwa Hospital to the Parliament building where they handed over a petition.
“Hospitals have run out of essential drugs and sundries and a lot of essential hospital equipment has either broken down and needs urgent repair or complete replacement. Even the most basic things like syringes are hard to come by in hospitals,” the doctors said in the petition.
“The hospitals have now turned into a dangerous place for patients. Doctors cannot afford to come to work anymore because their wages are not enough to cover their coming to work. Inflation has ravaged their earnings leaving them unable to afford a living. The hospital working environment has now turned to be unsafe for both the patients and the doctors alike.”
A majority of the 1,600 junior and middle-level doctors walked out of work on September 3, saying their salaries had been shrivelled by hyperinflation.
The government’s offer of a 60 percent wage increase would only bring their salaries to just over $2,000 Zimbabwe dollars (about US$120), and the doctors rejected it.
The government has shown little appetite to resolve the three-month stand-off, concentrating its efforts on trying to break the doctors’ resolve through the issuing of threats and dismissals.
Over 400 doctors have been dismissed in recent weeks, although President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week issued a 48-hour moratorium for them to return to work unconditionally following a meeting with Catholic bishops. The doctors have largely ignored the moratorium and pressed on with the industrial action. They also turned down an offer of $5,000 dollars monthly for the next six months and other benefits like taxi rides to work and smartphones from the Higher Lifer Foundation founded by telecoms tycoon Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi.
The doctors stress that Masiyiwa’s offer is a positive move in the stand-off, but they want the government to significantly improve their pay and guarantee the availability of important medical equipment and essential drugs before they return to work.
Before the start of their march on Wednesday, police asked the doctors not to sing a derogatory anti-establishment song which carries the chant: “Order! Order! Hatidi zvekupiwa order nemasasikamu” (We don’t take orders from retards).
The doctors carried placards some of which read ‘My Services Without Drugs Are Useless’, ‘Minister Obadiah Moyo Resign Immediately’ and ‘Our Patients Cannot Afford To Go To China’ – a dig at Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who recently spent four months receiving treatment at a Chinese hospital.
The doctors asked MPs to “censure the Minister of Health and Child Care so that he can stop his actions that are destroying the healthcare system”; carry out guided tours of hospitals to “appreciate the extent of deterioration in the public health facilities”; cause the enactment of the Health Services Commission and the disbanding of the Health Services Board and to “insist on an urgent revival of the healthcare delivery system in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
The broke government is facing similar pay demands from its over 230,000 workforce as resentment grows against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government which carried out unpopular currency reforms in June with the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar as the sole legal tender. The dollar has lost value massively since, wiping away the value of salaries which have not kept pace with inflation.
Source: Zim Live