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Zimbabwe Teachers Planning Paralyzing Strike Amid Economic Decay

FILE: Takafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, says President Emmerson Mnangagwa was told in Harare on Dec. 21, 2018, that if teachers don't report for work in January, it's because of the harsh economic situation in the country.

Zimbabwean teachers are planning a stay away next Tuesday on the first day of the school year due to the harsh economic situation which has resulted in the devaluation of their salaries.

In a statement, the largest teachers’ union said their members are worried about their meager salaries and as a result they won’t report for work.

“Our members are unable to report for duty with effect from the 8th of January 2019 due to incapacitation. To enable the teachers to report for work and to subsist, we demand the payment of salaries in U.S dollars,” reads the statement signed by the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association’s secretary general Richard Gundani.

Other teachers’ organizations have also promised to boycott work on Tuesday expressing similar sentiments.

Meanwhile, striking doctors say they have not called off a 37-day strike contrary to government reports that the two sides have reached an agreement for them to return to work.

They disowned a man identified only as P. Chivese, who signed an agreement with the Health Service Board and a government representative on Saturday in which they called off the strike saying most of the issues raised by the striking doctors had been resolved.

A representative of the doctors said they had not even agreed to call off the strike after holding a meeting with first lady Auxilla Mnangagwa.

The nationwide strike is to demand better pay and conditions in a country grappling with severe dollar shortages and spiralling inflation.

Mthabisi Bebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, told Reuters that contrary to reports in the state-owned newspaper, the Herald, the association had not yet consulted members after the meeting.

“Members of the executive met with (Auxilla Mnangagwa) but no agreement was reached,” Bebhe said. “The strike has not been called off.”

Auxilla Mnangagwa is an advocate on health issues.

The doctors’ first strike in March last year marked the first major labour dispute faced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is under pressure to repair an economy suffering after decades of missteps by his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

Public hospitals have been left short of drugs and reliant on patients to buy them, while pharmacies have stopped accepting insurance policies for purchases and demand payment in U.S. dollars.

Mnangagwa said in a video posted by the Information Ministry on Friday that the doctors had shared their concerns during the meeting and expressed their willingness to return to work.

“I will ask the relevant authorities to handle their demands,” he said.

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