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Zimbabwe Health Minister On Leave, Defense Chief Steps Up In Hospital Crisis

With a strike by hospital doctors in Harare and Bulawayo entering its second month, Zimbabwe Health Minister David Parirenyatwa abruptly left on leave and the minister of defense took the crisis in hand, signaling Harare is anxious to end the strike.

Sources close to the strike by junior and senior hospital residents said the matter was in the hands of Defense Minister Sydney Sekeremai, a former minister of health who is also the secretary for health in the politburo of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Sekeremai resolved a similar strike by hospital doctors in 2003 which lasted for 97 days.

Before his departure, Dr Parirenyatwa stated Friday that the striking doctors had not been dismissed, as was earlier stated by Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti.

Representatives of the striking hospital residents said they would pursue their action. The doctors, who earn between $56,000 and Z$76,000 (US$13-US$18 at the current parallel market exchange rate), are demanding Z$4 million to Z$5 million a month.

The junior hospital residents went on strike December 21 and the senior residents joined them about one week later. Many nurses are also on strike.

Offering a perspective on the latest development in the strike, International Socialist Organization National Coordinator Mike Sambo told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare wants a political solution to the crisis.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...