Panicky health ministry appeals to army for reinforcements

By Tatenda Dewa | Harare Bureau |

The Ministry of Health and Child Care has written to Constantine Chiwenga, the commander of the defence forces, requesting military staff in the wake of a crippling strike by civil servants.

Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga
Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga

Civil servants who include teachers and medical staff at government hospitals embarked on industrial action to push for the timely disbursement of their salaries and an improvement in working conditions early this week.

Calls to stayaway from work starting Tuesday were largely heeded in both rural and urban areas as government on Wednesday called on striking staff to return to work while organisers of the industrial action insist the job action must continue till Friday and resume next week.

The health secretary, Gerald Gwinji, sent out the SOS to Chiwenga ahead of the strike by civil servants, in a letter dated 4 July and referenced A/3/82.

“It has come to our attention that health workers might not report for duty in their numbers due to the call by the APEX for a stayaway with effect from 5 July 2016 due to non-payment of salaries.

“Contingency measures have been put in place to operate with limited staff. Assistance is required from the Defence Forces to augment coverage for the medical services especially (at) central hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo,” wrote Gwinji.

He said the hospitals would require doctors, nurses and medical laboratory scientists.

While medical staff are demanding better perks that government says it cannot honour due to a financial squeeze, Gwinji promised the soldiers accommodation, transport facilities and subsistence allowances.

The letter was copied to the Defence ministry secretary, the executive director in the Health Services Board, chief executive officers, principal directors, provincial medical directors, the director in charge of nursing services and the health ministry’s finance and administration director. Nehanda Radio