BY BLESSED MHLANGA/REX MPHISA
STRIKING junior and senior doctors have turned down offers by government to return to work within two days and to be paid $5 000 monthly by Econet Wireless founder, Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi, through their Higher Life Foundation (HLF), extending Zimbabwe’s health crisis.
The doctors went on strike on September 3 to protest against poor wages, in some cases less than US$100 a month.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, which responded to the job boycott by firing 448 doctors and pursuing disciplinary action against more than 1 000 others, on Thursday offered to reinstate them if they returned to work within 48 hours.
According to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), the last wage offer by the government would see the doctors earning a total package, including allowances, of
$3 900 (about US$240) per month.
“Sadly, the moratorium has come without a new offer on the table having been communicated to us,” ZHDA said, explaining its rejection of the offer.
The doctors also declined to accept an offer by Masiyiwa’s foundation to pay them $5 000 a month for six months.
Under the $100 million scholarship fund, HLF had offered to pay the senior and junior doctors $5 000, provide three Vaya rides to work every day and smart phones.
The ZHDA and Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association (ZSHDA) said they met with a representative from HLF and deliberated on their offer of financial assistance to government doctors.
“As such, it was concluded that, inasmuch as the support from HFL is welcome, it does not address completely the demands of doctors for a salary value which is preserved despite soaring inflation, as well as provision of appropriate tools of trade,” the doctors said in the statement.
“It was posited that the offer from HLF may be reconsidered once the standoff between ZHDA and its employer has been resolved. This recognises the sincerity of the donor and its desire not to interfere with the negotiating process.”
The doctors said the appreciated efforts by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference to resolve the impasse with government, but the bishops’ intervention lacked a representation of their voice.
“We appreciate the role played by the Catholic bishops which resulted in doctors being issued a moratorium, valid for the next 48 hours. Sadly, it came without a new offer on the table being communicated to us. Should this moratorium lapse without the formal communication of an offer that is reasonable, it would stand as yet another gracious privilege that is lost,” ZHDA
They pleaded with the bishops to, in future, seek the voice of the other side before speaking on their behalf.
“We would appreciate it more if the bishops talk to doctors’ representatives first so that they are in an informed position to represent the doctors’ real interests,” ZHDA said.
According to reports, the junior doctors want the government to pay them a US$1 500 per month or its equivalent at the going inter-market rate.
Consultants, otherwise called senior doctors, expect a similar arrangement on a US$5 000 salary scale following which they will resume work, NewsDay Weekender understands.
ZHDA acting secretary general, Tawanda Zvakada on Thursday said a number of doctors were at the moment considering leaving the country if the situation does not change.
He said a number of doctors were trying to raise money to fulfil the conversion requirements for the different countries that might recruit them.
Britain, Australia, New Zealand were reportedly willing to capitalise on Zimbabwe’s situation.
“Some doctors are struggling to raise the funds for those conversions. As you might be aware, our salaries were stopped in September,” Zvakada said. — Additional reporting by Reuters