BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has pleaded with senior doctors to act in the national interest and return to work, warning their industrial action, coming in the midst of a COVID-29 pandemic would come at a cost to the country.

Mnangagwa said the doctors should exhibit a sense of responsibility while government looks into their concerns.

He made the plea at the National Heroes Acre in Harare yesterday while addressing mourners at the burial of Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri who succumbed to COVID-19.

Shiri died early Wednesday in his vehicle while trying to seek medical attention after he failed to get help at a Highlands clinic due to the strike by doctors and nurses over poor salaries.

In his address, Mnangagwa said the global pandemic was decimating the population and if people fail to heed regulations of controlling its spread, they will perish.

“I call for our medical staff to act in the national interest and exhibit a sense of responsibility,” Mnangagwa said.

“My government has always listened to your concerns. We will continue to address all your problems but this cannot be enjoyed through loss of lives.”

Senior doctors declared a strike on Thursday demanding United States dollar salaries and personal protective equipment to be able to respond to COVID-19. The doctors joined nurses who have been on strike for the past six weeks.

Ironically, Mnangagwa’s call for the medical staff to go back to work comes at a time his government has been pampering soldiers, police and central intelligence officers with huge perks, ignoring nurses, doctors, teachers and other government workers.

The strike has crippled the country’s healthcare system. For six weeks, government has not made any meaningful effort to end the strike, but pampered security personnel used to suppress dissent over the Zanu PF rule.

“When the pandemic spreads tinopera tose (we will all perish), we must stop the scourge of COVID-19 as it spares no one great or small. Through unity and discipline we stand a chance to reduce it,” Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe has recorded 53 deaths out of 3 092 infections. Some of the prominent people that succumbed to the virus include Zimbabwe Defence Forces spokesperson Overson Mugwisi, journalist Zororo Makamba, former AgriBank boss Somkhosi Malaba, among others.

Turning to Shiri, Mnangagwa described him as a unifier, saying after coming from the war, he went on to the areas he operated during the war and built schools and agricultural infrastructure.

“Shiri, a fearless fighter; did a lot for us and knew the meaning of war, the value of national peace. He built irrigation (schemes) and helped in securing agriculture equipment from China, Spain and Belarus. He was in the middle of organising the Agriculture ministry,” Mnangagwa said.

He said Shiri was instrumental in the restoration of trust between government and former white commercial farmers by committing to compensate them after a chequered history of conflict during the fast-track land reform programme.

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