Death in the air as nurses strike

HARARE - Zimbabwe's comatose public health sector faces a complete collapse after the country’s under-appreciated nurses — who are poorly-paid and are still to get their December salaries as well as their promised end-of-year bonuses — gave notice to go on strike as from Friday this week.

Health experts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday warned that should the nurses carry out their threat, this would have “catastrophic” implications for poverty-stricken Zimbabweans who did not have the means to access private healthcare facilities.

Political analysts also warned that the country could be plunged into total chaos next year as fed-up civil servants, including teachers and medical staff — who spent a gloomy Christmas without their salaries — all threaten to take matters into their own  hands to force President Robert Mugabe’s broke and clueless government to honour its dues.

In a statement yesterday, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), Enock Dongo, said although the union understood that government was experiencing financial difficulties, nurses were not being recognised fairly despite their hard and important work.

As a result, he warnsd, nurses were going to stay away from work if their salaries were not paid by Thursday this week, because they wouldn’t have the means to travel to work.

This threat follows that by the Rural Teachers Union in Zimbabwe (RTUZ) and the Zimbabwe Teachers Association last week to also go on strike if their members were not paid their salaries soon.

Dongo said the government’s ever-shifting pay dates had put nurses in an akward situation where they were now having to constantly borrow money to survive.

“Let it be known that our meager salaries cannot stretch beyond the 31st of December 2015 as we had made budgets with normal pay dates in mind.

“Under the circumstances, we would like to announce that as of 1st January we don’t have transport money to go to work, which simply means that we will be home starving without even food and rentals, not mentioning money for school fees.

“This is regrettable because patients are the ones who will suffer due to minimum coverage by nurses. We will only afford to go to work when we get paid,” Dongo said.

Ominously for long-suffering citizens, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) also expressed its displeasure with the government yesterday, arguing that the workload and poor working conditions for doctors was not fair.

ZHDA said it had now approached its legal advisors on the way forward, with regard to having their demands for better working conditions met.

“In all fairness, our doctors deserve a billion times the current treatment and any attempt to thwart the disbursement of bonus payments and December salary will be viewed as a direct provocation.

“The flamboyance that we continue to see in the Health Services Board and the hefty perks our minister (David Parirenyatwa) seems to enjoy are not in tandem with the chorus of limited fiscal space.

“We call upon the government to immediately come up with an alternative funding model for health workers salaries as we foresee a turbulent 2016 should this anaemic and lethargic approach to health workers salaries continue,” ZHDA said.

Under-pressure Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, had the unenviable task of announcing on Christmas Day, of all days, that most public servants would only receive their December pay — which was supposed to have been deposited into their accounts before the onset of the holidays — in January.

To make the situation worse desperate State pensioners have been queuing at banks around the country for their money in vain for the past few weeks.

It is in that light, that there are growing fears that violent demonstrations could erupt early next year as hard-pressed civil servants and pensioners, who include war veterans, agitate for their money.

Economic analysts warned at the weekend that the cash crunch ravaging the government was likely to worsen in 2016 as the country’s comatose economy deteriorated further, resulting in ever dwindling revenues for the Treasury.

They also bemoaned Mugabe’s “folly” earlier this year when he ill-advisedly quashed plans by Chinamasa to suspend civil servants’ bonuses for two years, given the State’s plummeting revenues.

According to the Finance minister, the current civil service wage bill, which chews more than 80 percent of government’s revenues, stands at a staggering $260 million a month.  Bonus obligations for civil servants in 2014 stood at $172,6 million — a large part of which was only paid mid this year.

Pensioners who spoke to the Daily News’s sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday, said they felt betrayed by the government as they were having to spend the festive season with no money.

A retired police force member said his pension was all that stood between his family and starvation as he had no other means to look after himself and his loved ones.

“I can no longer compete with the young people for work. All I do is wait for my meagre pension, which I fully earned and is not charity from the government.

“They should therefore not tell us that the money is not available or that it was used at the Zanu PF conference because this trend of late payments has been going on since May, and is getting worse,” he said.

RTUZ said that if the Zanu PF government could afford “endless foreign trips for the president, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s hotel bill and a week-long party conference in Victoria Falls, there should be enough money for salaries”.

It also said the ever-changing pay dates for civil servants underlined the “cruelty of government towards its own employees”.

It further threatened to take its protest against government’s inadequacies to the streets on January 4, saying its members would only return to work once their demands had been met in full.

“Chinamasa’s zeal to impress international creditors at the expense of civil servants will drag his party into a legitimacy crisis. A government that lies to its citizens deserves no recognition at all and must be pushed out of government.

“We call upon the working class of this country to join hands and confront the anti-workers ruling party and demand salaries and bonuses for civil servants,” the union said.

“Retrenchments and other anti-worker policies that we have witnessed this year are a clear message on the need of solidarity among the working people.

“As a union, we stand ready to fight for our dues and fight against those who deny us our dues. Zanu PF must either deliver or ship out of government,” the union added.

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Comments (8)

miscarriage of justice

matotoemheni - 30 December 2015

Zimbabweans are truly a patient, passive and enduring lot. But come 2016, I think peoples patience has been stretched to the limit and people are gatvol of the status quo

D.Kwesu - 30 December 2015

Two things that come to mind: 1. For all his faults Tendai Biti was right, "You can rig the elections but you can't rig the economy." 2. Morgan Tsvangirai has been promising mass actions and being thwarted at the same sometimes. This is an opportunity that presents itself. The masses are ready, the majority are unemployed and the majority of the unemployed are unpaid and frustrated by the largest employer in the land. If government won't allow you to demonstrate ngatingogare kudzimba dzedu. We'll mount pressure yedu that way

Alan - 30 December 2015

Nicely said. Passive resistance. This way the peoples sanity will prevail.

Umvukwesi - 30 December 2015

Why do these troubles always come in Mugabe's absence. Are we scared shitless when he is around. C'mon guys time to show this zanu gangster who calls the shots...We, the people. Lets all go into the streets.

Realist - 30 December 2015

Zvinonzi nevamwe kumisha. Munhu anotyisa 'ANEMUSHONGA'.

Umvukwesi - 30 December 2015

Zanu pf government is on life support if not comma. The nurses should switch off the plug and certify it dead come friday!!!!

X-MAN IV - 30 December 2015

There is an end to everything . All this madness shall end. Look at Mobuto, Gadafi,Hitler and even the biblical Ahabu.

Big Meech Larry Hoover - 31 December 2015

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