Zimbabwe Judge Declares Doctors’ Strike Illegal, Orders Them to Go Back to Work

Health minister Dr Obadiah Moyo

HARARE – The Labor Court has ordered striking Zimbabwean doctors to return to court within the next few hours, saying the 23-day industrial action is illegal.

Judge Betty Chidziva, who made the ruling Saturday night in Harare in favor of the Health Service Board (HSB) which hires doctors, noted that doctors fell under essential services in the country and therefore they were not in a position to engage in such job action.

The doctors’ attorney, Munyaradzi Gwisai, argued that the matter should be taken to the Constitutional Court but Chidziva dismissed the plea saying “this is a matter of national interest which needed to be dealt with urgently.”

Some of the doctors, who attended the court session, said they will defy the court ruling.

In a message sent to his colleagues, Mthabisi Bhebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, said the court also ruled that the HSB was not obliged to pay doctors who have been on strike, “the HSB can issue any disciplinary proceedings against ZHDA members and ZHDA should cover legal costs (of the court case) at ordinary scale.”

“Ladies and gentlemen we’ve reached the defining moment of our struggle, this is definitely not the end. From a legal perspective, if we do not go back to work the employer can summarily dismiss us of which they have always had this power according to the Health Services Act without going to the Labour Court and all … The events of the day have clearly showed the pressure that the employer is under pressure … We stay true to our demands. They should be addressed for us to go back to work.

“Tichadzokera kubasa kana paita USA (We will go back to work when there are USA dollars … Let us know our worth. So many years of hard work to be treated as slaves … Let’s show them we are not slaves and that we are united. Shall we return to work empty handed, to be exploited? Shall we be used and done this way? Shall we work in hospitals without protection?

Doctors are demanding payment of their salaries in United States dollars, revival of state-initiated vehicle loan scheme, provision of necessary equipment in hospitals and other issues.

The government has already indicated that it won’t pay the doctors in dollars due to serious foreign currency shortages.