Chamisa warns of implosion

Published: 11 October 2019
OPPOSITION MDC leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday came face to face with empty hospitals as members of the public now opt for private health centres following the countrywide doctors' industrial action over poor salaries.

Chamisa, who toured Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals, warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the government that the situation could lead to civil unrest.

Addressing journalists after the tour, Chamisa said he was saddened that instead of the country's medical facilities giving hope to patients, they now represented death.

"I will make sure that I do all in my power to make my brother ED realise that the situation in the country is dire and people are agitated, youths are anxious and they could soon take power into their own hands if nothing is done because it resides in them," Chamisa warned.

Chamisa bemoaned the fact that health personnel, including doctors and nurses, were paid "insulting" salaries while the country's leadership is living large and accessing heathcare in foreign countries.

"All hospitals are deserted and it is a hopeless situation. Something must be done to stop this madness because the country is in the intensive care, people are in the intensive care and the leadership is in the intensive care, if not in the mortuary. What I have to do is to act," the former Kuwadzana East legislator said.

Doctors are currently on strike demanding better wages in the face of runaway inflation that has seen prices of basic goods skyrocketing beyond the reach of many.

The doctors have defied a government order to return to work after rejecting a 60 percent pay rise, saying it is not enough to keep up with soaring prices.
But with the economy in free fall, patients in need of treatment are also suffering.

Chamisa said Mnangagwa's foreign trips appeared to be misplaced "because they were not bringing anything tangible".
In January this year, police and soldiers engaged in running battles with protesters who flooded the streets of Harare, Bulawayo and other towns to voice their concern over steep fuel price hikes announced by Mnangagwa ahead of his tour of Eastern Europe.

Mnangagwa, who was feted like a king when he replaced the late former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, initially lifted the mood of crisis-weary Zimbabweans who were hopeful at the time that he would turn around the country's economic fortunes.

However, the post-July 30, 2018 election shootings — which left at least six civilians dead when the military used live ammunition to quell ugly demonstration in Harare's central business district (CBD) and several deaths during this year's fuel riots, as well as the subsequent vicious clampdown on dissenting voices — are seen as having dented his international image significantly, in addition to harming his chances of getting financial support from Western countries.

Meanwhile, Labour Court judges are yet to give a ruling on the case where the Health Service Board (HSB) applied for the authority to institute disciplinary action against the striking doctors.

The HSB also seeks to have the court determine the legality of the industrial action after doctors defied the government order to resume work on Monday.

In his argument yesterday, HSB lawyer Tim Mutomba told Labour Court judges Rogers Munyangadze and Lawrence Murasi that doctors offered essential services and had no right to go on strike.
"We therefore pray that an order to conduct disciplinary proceedings be granted by this court," Mutomba said.

However, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) lawyer Douglas Coltart has argued that his clients are not on strike but are unable to go to work as their salaries are not enough.
He said their actions could not be considered unlawful as government breached their contracts by offering them less money.

"The employer has failed to meet the demand of the contract where salaries were denominated in US dollars. Now doctors are only getting an equivalent of US$150 when they used to earn about US$1 800," Coltart said.
- dailynews
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