Zimbabwean doctors return to work, civil servants begin strike over 2016 bonuses

Doctors in Zimbabwe’s public medical facilities on Saturday announced a suspension of their two-week strike action which almost crippled the country’s health care system. They described their latest move as a ‘huge compromise’ for the greater good.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said in a statement, ‘‘The employer has failed to meet doctors’ demands yet again but we make this huge compromise as a sign of our commitment to greater good.’‘

Their strike was primarily over conditions of service and the need for government to commit to hiring doctors who were due to be unemployed after their post-internship work. They also demanded an arrangement to import cars duty-free.

The ball is now in government court to deliver on promises and improve on doctors’ conditions of service, failing which, as the ZHDA we remain resolute that we will take decisive action to defend the best interests of the health profession in Zimbabwe.

None of their demands has been fully met, in respect of their on-call allowance which has remained unchanged since 2014 – they wanted the government to honour a pledge to peg it at a minimum of $720 per month – per the current arrangement they were given $360.

“The ball is now in government court to deliver on promises and improve on doctors’ conditions of service, failing which, as the ZHDA we remain resolute that we will take decisive action to defend the best interests of the health profession in Zimbabwe,” the ZHDA said.

At some point, the doctors were joined by nurses and midwives as a result the government deployed medical officers from the army to lessen the impact of the strike as negotiations with the doctors continued.

Meanwhile, other public workers, mostly teachers, are expected to strike on Monday to push the government to pay 2016 annual bonuses that were due in December.

An official of a teacher’s union, Raymond Majongwe confirmed that striking workers will stage a sit-in on Monday and decide a course of action after meeting with the government over the delayed payment.

According to Reuters, Cecilia Alexander, chairwoman of Apex Council, the top union for civil servants, said on Sunday workers would no longer hold a demonstration in the capital Harare as initially planned, but would instead go on strike.