VICE-PRESIDENT Constantino Chiwenga on Tuesday announced that all striking nurses had been fired, probably the most unwarranted and drastic decision ever taken.
Chiwenga announced that the nurses had been offered some money but they continued with the strike, leading to their mass firing.
What this situation needed was tact, with the government negotiating with the striking workers, rather than this heavy-handed approach.
The nurses have genuine grievances, which the government has been ignoring for years, and firing them will not solve the problem.
Hiring unemployed or retired nurses will not help the situation ever, as that is a sure way of ensuring that the health delivery system deteriorates further.
One day, these nurses will also be fed up with poor working conditions and they will strike and we wonder if the government will wield the axe again.
A strike in the health sector has to be handled delicately, rather than issuing threats, as this is unhelpful and people take polar positions.
As a military man, maybe Chiwenga is used to a situation where his word went unquestioned, as he barked orders, but in the civilian world, things work a little differently, with people expected to negotiate, argue and come up with a situation that works best for them.
In his statement, Chiwenga also displays shocking levels of paranoia, saying the strike was political.
Nurses have been quite patriotic in the face of a collapsing economy and a health sector that fails to provide basics and they have a right to demand a little more than what they are earning right now.
Instead of firing them, the government should be empathetic to their situation and responsive to their demands.
Zimbabwean workers, particularly public servants, have been quite patient and have delivered diligently even when their work has gone unnoticed and underappreciated.
Thus, Chiwenga is urged to withdraw that order firing the striking nurses and retreat to the negotiating table and present a deal acceptable to the workers.
This way, the government will be able to salvage the little that is left of our health sector and ensure that it does not collapse.
If Chiwenga is desperate to fire someone, then he should ask President Emmerson Mnangagwa to axe Health minister David Parirenyatwa.
In less than two months, there have been two strikes in the health sector — first by doctors and now nurses — and it points to a problem of leadership, which Chiwenga should be addressing, rather than this wholesale approach of firing nurses, whose only crime is demanding that their pay be commensurate with their work.