HARARE – Zimbabwe public doctors on Wednesday called off a two-week strike for more pay, responding to a call by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to return to work while the government scrounges around for funds to meet their demands.
The doctors were however now pressing the government to provide them with car and housing allowances within a month, according to Hospital Doctors Association (HAD) president Blessing Chizhande.
Tsvangirai last week appealed to the doctors to go back to work saying government was addressing their concerns.
“We have called off the strike after realising that government has no money,” Chizhande said.
“The government has no money, and we have heeded calls by the Prime Minister who last week said we should go back to work until a solution is found. Although we have called off the strike we are giving government a one month ultimatum that they give us housing and vehicles allowances which will be paid over a number of years.”
Doctors earn around US$170 per month. They had wanted the government to hike the salary to US$1 000 plus US$500 allowance but the cash-strapped administration offered to top doctors salaries by an allowance of only US$48.
The industrial action had brought back memories of last year when striking doctors and nurses deserted public hospitals as a cholera epidemic ravaged Zimbabwe, killing more than 4 000 people before it was brought under control with help from international relief agencies.
Zimbabwe last week recorded new cases of cholera in Chibuwe district near Chipinge farming town – more than 300km south-east of Harare – days after the United Nations (UN) warned a possible fresh outbreak of the disease in the country with the new rains expected in less than 10 weeks.
The troubled southern African country also last week reported its first confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) or swine flu, to highlight a looming health and humanitarian crisis.
The power-sharing government between Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe has promised to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy and restore basic services such as health and education that had virtually collapsed after years of recession.
But the administration, which says it needs US$10 billion to revive the economy, could fail to deliver on its promise unless it is able to unlock financial support from Western governments that have remained reluctant to provide aid until they see evidence that Mugabe is committed to genuinely share power with Tsvangirai. – ZimOnline