THE ongoing strike by doctors in the country’s hospitals is just but a symptom of the bigger illness plaguing Zimbabwe.
The doctors are demanding payment in US dollars, stocking of medicines and equipment in hospitals, an increase in their on-call allowances, a facility to import vehicles duty-free and a review of allowances for doctors based at rural health centres.
Earlier this year, nurses across the country protested, making similar demands. The striking nurses were fired, only to be rehired.
Again, in similar fashion, government chose not to address the root cause of the matter, but instead resorted to firing the 550 doctors who had taken part in the strike.
While some circles have been quick to label the doctors’ demands as outrageous, conveniently pointing out that Treasury is already overburdened, one only needs to walk into a grocery store to accept the fact that the cost of living is skyrocketing.
Zimstats would have us believe that annual inflation is at 31%, but the reality is far from that. The cost of living is increasing — public transport operators have doubled bus fare for most routes, a kilogram of meat is averaging $16, a 300ml bottle of coke is priced at a ridiculous $1,50; that’s if you are lucky to find one on the shelf.
Life is increasingly becoming difficult, not just for doctors but for every other ordinary Zimbabwean.
What then is going to happen when the rest of the civil service joins in the strike? What then is government going to do when it’s confronted by this inevitability?
The teachers’ unions have already made notice of their demands for an increase in the region of 600% or to have their salaries paid in foreign currency to cushion them against pricing volatilities.
The nurses, extension officers and other government employees who bear the brunt of a debilitating economy, will also come to the table with their demands. Clearly, a complete government shutdown is in the making if the underlying economic issues are not addressed as a matter of urgency.
Government should not wait until it is brought to a standstill by workers demanding what is rightfully owed to them.
We believe the solution is not in firing all striking workers, but in addressing economic fundamentals which have brought the country to this position.
While we acknowledge that Treasury is already struggling, this is a situation of the government’s own making.
It is also high time the government admitted that the country is undergoing a currency crisis and do away with the surrogate bond note, which has caused pricing distortions.