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Zimbabwe Teachers, Nurses, Senior Medical Officers Join 34-Day Junior Doctors' Strike

FILE: Teachers demanding to be paid in U.S. dollars take to the streets in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 9, 2018.
FILE: Teachers demanding to be paid in U.S. dollars take to the streets in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 9, 2018.

Hundreds of teachers, nurses and senior doctors have joined a 34-day junior doctors’ strike, saying they are now failing to make ends meet as the economic situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated, resulting in the devaluation of their salaries.

In statements released Thursday, representatives of civil servants affiliated to seven teachers and nurses’ groups and members of the Zimbabwe Medical Association said they have decided to join the doctors’ strike as they are facing similar economic hardships.

A statement signed by representatives of education and nurses unions read in part, “We are in solidarity with the doctors and all medical personnel currently on job action. We are in total disagreement with the government’s subtle and open threats against them for embarking on legitimate job action.”

The government said Thursday there were indications that the doctors’ industrial action is being “sponsored” by some political groups. Doctors dismissed these suggestions saying the government should address their grievances that include payment of salaries in United States dollars, provision of essential material in state hospitals and other issues.

Teachers and nurses said in their statement that government should urgently focus on issues affecting all civil servants.

“As the education and nursing services sectors, we have unanimously resolved with effect from this day, 3 January 2019, that our incapacitated members will not be able to attend to their normal duties for more than two days a week; that our salaries be paid in US$ with effect from October 2018; the outstanding bonus component be paid immediately; and if the government harasses any of the health and education services members, the concept of injure one inure all will immediately kick in.”

There was no immediate reaction from Acting President Constantino Chiwenga, who is reported to have been part of a Joint Operations Command meeting, which resolved on Thursday to handle the current impasse with doctors and any civil service job action with a heavy hand.

In a statement late Thursday, Chiwenga urged all candidates who successfully completed their Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery Degrees in universities in Zimbabwe and are due to take up first year internships to apply for placements for 204 posts in five government hospitals that include Parirenyatwa, Mpilo, Harare Central and others.

Indications are that most of the targeted candidates won’t apply for the posts as they are complaining that the government wants to downgrade such positions to interns and not junior doctors.

In a related development, senior medical consultants and registrars in state hospitals also issued a statement saying they have also joined the strike.

The statement addressed to the Ministry of Health and chief executive officers of state hospitals read in part, “We as Hospital Medical Officers, Junior Registrars and Senior Registrars held a meeting today and it is with a heavy heart that we agreed to stop attending to emergencies. We have been diligently attending to emergencies, hoping that the current impasse would be resolved.

“We are now overwhelmed and we share the same grievances with our juniors. This letter covers those on leave as well who are in agreement and in full support of the industrial action. We hope the situation will be resolved in an amicable and urgent manner.”

Reacting to the nationwide industrial action, Zanu PF's Believe Gaule acknowledged that the country is facing serious economic hardships but urged people to be patient as President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government attempts to fix the declining economy.

"We all know that the economy is not performing well but we believe that Mnangagwa should be given a chance to fix the economy. The country is not generating enough foreign currency at the moment to pay civil servants in dollars so, there should be frank dialogue between government and striking workers in order to have an amicable solution to what is going on."

Zimbabwe Govt Tackling Economic Crisis, Please Be Patient'
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Meanwhile, Chiwenga on Thursday held a meeting with representatives of Delta Corporation and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe following an announcement by the beverages company that it will sell its products in United States dollars.

In a joint statement, the RBZ and Delta Corporation said they agreed that Delta would withdraw a notice to sell its products exclusively in hard currency “in the spirit of the multiple-currency framework”

It was also agreed that “the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will endeavor to provide the foreign currency required to ensure that Delta continues to trade on the current basis.”