BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday threatened ‘troublesome’ union leaders reported to be inciting the strike by doctors at public health institutions.
“Last month we gave them an increment twice, but they refused to go back to work. Now we offered them 30% they refused. We offered them again 60% and still they are refusing to go back to work. We are now looking for those possessed with Legion (demons). We saw that there are a few who went aside at night to some meetings and they come to influence others who want to go back to work,” Mnangagwa told the inaugural meeting of the Association of Rural District Councillors in Harare.
“Kana uchiti uri mhesvamukono hatizivi kuti uchararama here nokuti rwendo rwurefu, kana uchiti wakangwara uchaona kuti hauna (If you think you are a bullfrog, let’s see if you will survive what lies ahead, we have a long way to go yet. If you think you are clever then you will see that you are not,” Mnangagwa warned.
Junior and mid-level doctors have been on strike for more than a month, demanding better pay and working conditions which has left major public hospitals largely deserted after nurses also joined the strike two weeks ago citing poor remuneration and overworking.
They defied a government ultimatum to return to work last Monday and a Labour Court ruled that their strike was illegal last Friday after rejecting a 60% pay rise offer from their employer which they say is not enough to keep up with soaring prices of basic goods.
More government workers have threatened to down tools next week demanding to be paid US dollar salaries pegged at the prevailing interbank rate, adding pressure to Mnangagwa’s struggling administration.
The southern African country is also in the grip of its worst economic crisis in a decade underpinned by rolling power cuts, a cash crunch and shortages of medicines, fuel and some basic commodities. Inflation has shot past 300% according to latest estimates by the International Monetary Fund. Zimbabwe, however, suspended in August announcing annualised inflation figures.