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Zimbabwe Health Services Board Chairman Paulinus Sikhosana.

The employer of Zimbabwe’s public hospital doctors is appealing to senior doctors who have threatened to go on strike, Thursday, to continue working for the sake of their patients.

The country’s senior doctors issued a statement Tuesday, threatening to “not be able to continue reporting for duty,” starting Thursday, due to the “appalling and disgraceful” conditions of service.”

The doctors have complained about poor salaries of less than US$200 a month, as well as lack of adequate or working equipment to do their jobs.

In the statement the doctors said they were overloaded with work due to the ongoing strike by their junior counterparts and also nurses, and that without a salary increase, they will have no option but to declare incapacitation.

Dr. Paulinus Sikosana, who chairs the Health Services Board, acknowledged the doctors’ concerns, but appealed to the doctors to continue working for the sake of their patients, while government tries to address their concerns.

“The appeal is that while we try to negotiate, perhaps, we appeal to the doctors’ conscious, to in the meanwhile, to look after the lives of patients, especially those that have no recourse to the private medical sector.”

Sikosana said for a start, the government recently equipped some of the hospitals, per the doctors’ demand, with the help of foreign donations from the United Arab Emirates and India.

“The government has expedited their efforts of re-equipping hospitals with the assistance of the government of the United Arab Emirates as well as the government of India, a significant amount of equipment has been purchased,” said Dr. Sikosana.

As for the low salaries, Dr. Sikosana blamed the country’s poor economy which he said has put a strain on the government’s ability to source much-needed foreign capital.

He said in better days, the salary for even junior doctors coming out of university, were competitive.

“We were making progress during the period when the economy was dollarized,” Sikosana explained. “For instance, if you looked at a junior doctor coming straight from university, we had reached a total package of about US$2,200 at that time. But obviously this has been significantly eroded with the fiscal crisis that government is experiencing at the time.”

Dr. Sikosana added that the government has given senior doctors advantages over their junior counterparts, that should cushion them from the economic strains faced by everyone, and urged the doctors to factor that into their actions.

“We have a policy that allows senior doctors to do private practice. We have given them permission to do private practice, even during working hours. One would have thought that at least for them, that would have cushioned them more than the junior doctors. And they have right of admission to bring their private patients to some of the theaters, for instance, Parirenyatwa, and charge them. So one has to take that into account,” he said.

The senior doctors, who had joined their junior colleagues in a strike last month over salaries and also the return of a colleague who had mysteriously disappeared, had briefly returned to work following an undisclosed salary adjustment by the government, but are now threatening to renew their strike, citing government’s lack of action on their demand.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa delivers his State of the nation address at the opening session of parliament in Harare, Tuesday Oct. 1, 2019.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the government is fully aware of the challenges faced by the public in accessing cash, which has resulted in some unscrupulous traders selling cash in exchange for electronic money.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) while also officially opening the second session of the 9th parliament, Mangagwa said efforts are being made to tackle this issue.

“Appropriate measures are being taken to address the cash situation, which include a gradual removal of arbitrage opportunities created through multitier pricing.”

He claimed that the country had a budget surplus in the first half of this year.

“I am pleased to highlight that the ongoing fiscal consolidation measures are already paying off. During the first half of 2019, a budget surplus has been recorded. Such savings have enabled Government to meet essential unplanned expenditures in particular related to the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and supporting livelihoods for communities affected by Cyclone Idai; social service delivery, cost of living adjustments for civil servants and the provision of social safety nets for the vulnerable members of our society.”

Mnangagwa said the government is taking bold measures in opening up and growing the economy for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.

“The road map articulated in our Vision 2030, with the TSP as the key building block is being systematically pursued. We are reforming our economy, we are reforming political space, and the very fabric of our society. I am encouraged by the nation’s positive response to the currency reforms which we have embarked on.

“Government is equally pleased with the relative stability of the exchange rate over the past eight weeks. However, last week’s events of exchange rate manipulation, amounts to economic sabotage and should not be tolerated. We all need to adhere to the rule of law and foster discipline at all levels. We are determined to consolidate digital financial services which are contributing to the creation of financial inclusion by way of delivering banking services to previously unbanked and vulnerable groups of our population.”

Mnangagwa said the sustained turnaround of the local economy hinges on focused support for the productive sectors, especially agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

He noted that the 2018/2019 drought has resulted in the agricultural sector registering a negative growth rate.

“Going forward, government has set aside ZWL$1, 8 billion towards the production of strategic crops, such as maize, soya beans and cotton. Of this amount, ZWL$567, 4 million has been allocated for the provision of inputs for vulnerable households and ZWL$332 million to ensure the procurement of inputs for cotton production.

“A total of ZWL$968 million will augment the ZWL$2, 8 billion put forward by banks and the private sector to support the Command Agriculture Programme. Let me hasten to state that, only those with a proven track record of delivering to GMB and repaying their loans will be supported under the Command Agriculture Programme.”

The president further said a $60 million facility has been set aside for the rehabilitation of machinery under the Command Agriculture Programme.

He said at least US$ 51 million has been allocated for the supply of various agricultural machinery from John Deere, some of which, are already being delivered.

At the same time, Mnangagwa said, government will accelerate the importation of some agricultural inputs, including tractors, planters and combine harvesters, from Belarus.

He said there were other state projects designed to boost agricultural production.

“To render inputs more affordable to our farmers, government is putting in place measures to facilitate the duty free importation of fertilisers, targeted electricity subsidies and the local manufacturing of fertilisers, including the full exploitation of phosphates from Dorowa. Government is currently working on a programme to avail dipping chemicals and improve general animal husbandry practices. Research by our institutions of higher and tertiary education towards the local manufacturing of foot and mouth disease vaccines, has begun with the support of government.”

Mnangagwa noted that the mining sector has continued to be a key source of export earnings, income, employment and the preferred destination for investment inflows.

He said during the first half of the year, the sector generated US$1,3 billion, which constitutes 68% of the country’s total export receipts.

“We will soon unveil a comprehensive strategy and roadmap towards the attainment of a US$12 billion mining industry in Zimbabwe, by 2023. The attainment of this goal is achievable, with concrete green fields and expansion projects now at various stages of implementation.”

On small and medium enterprises, Mnangagwa said government has secured a US$2,7 million grant from India for the upgrading of eleven existing Technology and Common Facility Centres, located in the country’s ten provinces.

“Additional state-of-the-art machinery for use in manufacturing activities of SMEs, are currently being installed. Going forward, Government is committed to support programmes to build appropriate work spaces for SMEs businesses.”

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