Government backs down on doctors

GOVERNMENT has reversed its decision to fire 445 doctors and also froze all pending disciplinary cases against both junior and senior doctors if they agree to return to work within two days following a deal brokered by Catholic bishops.

BY BLESSED MHLANGA

However, the bishops failed to end the impasse between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa, over talks to resolve the political and economic crisis in the country.

Roman Catholic Church Archbishop of Harare, Robert Christopher Ndlovu, after a two-hour-long meeting with Mnangagwa and his two deputies, Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, said the issue of the striking doctors topped the agenda.

“We discussed a lot about the issue of doctors, the striking doctors and what we managed to extract from the government was that they agreed that they can give a moratorium of two days for doctors to report back to work without having to reapply. At least they gave them two days and don’t need to re-apply as had been decided by Cabinet,” he said.

But government and the doctors have not yet reached an agreement, which led the health workers to down tools in the first place.

Bishops also engaged Mnangagwa on the economy and tried to nudge him to dialogue with Chamisa.
Ndlovu said the meeting could not yield any change because Mnangagwa has maintained his stance.
“I don’t think there has been any change. I think, of course, the President is still committed to dialogue. He says what is important is that they all come together. It’s not a question of him and them or Zanu PF and MDC, but all the political players,” the cleric said.

“He says he is still open to that, that is what he said. He said he is still open to dialogue with anyone, including the leader of the MDC. It’s an engagement and we committed to say in future, we shall continue to talk to each other. I think it’s a process.”

The MDC has refused to join the Mnangagwa-initiated Political Actors Dialogue, saying it is a choir of people agreeing with each other and had no capacity to deliver real change.

Chamisa wants Zanu PF and the MDC to meet separately and discuss legitimacy issues arising from the contested 2018 presidential elections.

He has also demanded that the talks be chaired by an independent mediator.

Mnangagwa confirmed that government was going to allow doctors to come back to work despite firing them over the past few weeks.

“We found it fruitful, the contribution by the bishops council who came to meet us. Then they requested for a moratorium on the question of doctors for two days. That, we can offer, a moratorium for two days for the doctors who have been dismissed to come back and join without application. Just come back to work and we have granted the request,” he said, adding that the Catholic Bishops Conference had requested the meeting to discuss the economy, but did not delve into detail.

“The Bishops sent us a pastoral letter of issues they were raising across the board and asking to meet as the leadership,” Mnangagwa said.

“We acceded to their request and we have discussed. I think the major areas which we covered was the area of the health sector and national health delivery, economic situation and social conditions of the people in the country, political situation and the role and relations of political parties and national dialogue and last government, churches civil society interaction.

So we covered all those areas.”

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