GOVERNMENT yesterday distanced itself from recent statements by Defence deputy minister Victor Matemadanda, who claimed that human rights lawyer Doug Coltart was paying doctors to stay away from work.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told Senate that Matemadanda was not a government spokesperson.

“My response is that government has one spokesperson which is the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services,” Ziyambi said.

“Whatever Matemadanda said depends on which platform he said that, but our Constitution gives him the right to say whatever he wants, but that is not official government channels or information signed by the Information minister.”

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Masvingo senator Tichinani Mavetera (MDC Alliance), who is also a medical practitioner, then asked Ziyambi to explain government policy in solving the doctors’ job action and whether President Emmerson Mnangagwa was aware of the real issues concerning doctors because after meeting with Catholic bishops, he had given a moratorium and said doctors must return to work.

Mavetera suggested that the President was being misinformed of the real reasons that had forced doctors to go on strike.

But Ziyambi declined to comment on whether the President was well-informed of the reasons of the strike, saying that it was not a policy question.

“On the second part of your question, the doctors went on strike and negotiations were ongoing. There was no agreement and they went to court, but the Labour Court ordered the striking doctors to report to work and the case was referred for arbitration. They disregarded the court order and did not go to work and they were dismissed,” Ziyambi said.

“We are simply following the law and therefore, the Health minister did not close the doors to negotiations. When the church leaders went to see the President and requested a moratorium, the doctors disregarded it and that is the position.”

Mavetera then said that the doctors had refused to go back to work – not only because of the measly salaries they were being paid, but because they were incapacitated and were not being provided with tools of the trade such as drugs and gloves to use while performing their duties.