GOVERNMENT must deal with key issues behind the doctors’ strike.
Junior doctors in most parts of the country have gone on strike, no surprise there. The strike action by the doctors has become an annual event, except that this is the second time this year they have withheld their services to demand an end to sub-standard conditions, including poor working conditions, low salaries and shortages of basic medicines and equipment.
After a month’s strike from March 1, the doctors returned to the hospitals after they reached a deal with government on their remuneration. But the shortages of basic medicines and equipment have remained unresolved. Drug shortages and lack of proper equipment in Zimbabwe health facilities are almost as endemic as corruption.
A critical demand that government has consistently ignored is addressing the critical shortage of drugs and medicines at most public health facilities. For its part, the State has abdicated this responsibility to private health providers.
The majority of Zimbabweans depend on the woefully underfunded health system and as a result, health workers watch helplessly as patients die of diseases that can be easily treated.
Their demands on remuneration resonate with almost all public servants and the rest of the working public: they want to be paid in US dollars.
One cannot blame them, because it is the government that continues to sell the obvious lie that the greenback is equal in value to its surrogate bond note currency and its various disguises such as electronic transfers and mobile money.
Also, worsening economic fundamentals such as inflation — which government expects to peak at 25,9% this year and the daily price increases mean that their meagre salaries are losing value by the hour.
If, and predictably so, the government gives in to their demands, and if the rest of the workforce follows, we have a race between salaries, price increases and inflation which only ends with one loser, the common man. Slowly, but surely, Zimbabwe is sliding back to the dark days of 2008.
The government of course, can solve the problem by dealing with the issue of currency distortions that is primarily responsible for the chaos in the economy.
The economy is already redollarising, and government has followed the market in this sense. Why not just ditch the useless surrogate bond note currency, its various appendages and save us all the trouble?