Public service strikes have characterised Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first five months in power‚ providing a rallying point for the opposition.
While nurses have ended their two-week strike‚ a doctors’ strike has entered its fourth week. And teachers asking for a 100 percent increment are threatening to down tools if their demand is not met.
In a statement‚ the teachers say they are planning to march to Mnangagwa’s office on Tuesday. “The economic crisis‚ which also resulted in a biting cash crisis‚ has reduced our salaries to peanuts. Our income level is no longer commensurate with the cost of living‚ consequently teachers can no longer afford to pay for basic social services for their families‚” the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said in a statement.
Last week‚ a threat by government to cut striking doctors’ salaries failed to break their strike‚ with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga subsequently reversing the threat. The strike is already affecting Mnangagwa’s presidential campaign.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa cancelled her planned tour of Chitungwiza General Hospital‚ where numerous women promised free cervical cancer screening were left stranded.
Health and Childcare Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa urged government to act on the issue because it was compromising the country’s health security.
President Mnangagwa said he was working round the clock to see if his government could address the health workers concerns.
“I have asked Patrick Chinamasa (finance minister) to look at government’s capacity to meet their demands‚” he said at the CEOs Africa Round Table meeting in Victoria Falls when the strike entered it s second week.
On the other hand‚ MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa last week toured one of the country’s largest hospitals‚ Harare Central Hospital‚ where he expressed his solidarity with public health practitioners.
“It is a justifiable and justified action because they (doctors) have not been given what is due to them‚” said Chamisa.
While negotiations with doctors are under way‚ government has dispatched doctors working in the army to assist where they can. Junior doctors earn a basic salary of $329 and their on-call allowances are pegged at $1.50 per hour.
Last year government failed to pay bonuses in December and promised to stagger them over three months in 2018.
Health professionals got their bonuses this month while on strike. Teachers will get theirs in April and the rest of the civil service is assured they will get their bonuses in May.
Despite the commitment‚ the general feeling among workers is that Mnangagwa is not giving their concerns sufficient attention while he travels the world preaching “Zimbabwe is open for business”.
“If President Mnangagwa was serious about reviving the economy‚ he should have met labour also. He should have met labour before running all over the show‚” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) western region chairperson Ambrose Sibindi said in an interview with The Standard newspaper.
The last salary review for civil servants was effected in 2013 and ZCTU argues that since then‚ salaries have been eroded by 70 percent. – SowetoLive