Zimbabwe’s striking doctors and nurses, who have been on industrial strike for three months now, are living in constant fear of their lives amid reports that shadowy people have been calling them, threatening the medical staffers with unspecified action unless they return back to work.
The doctors now allege that the Government is now resorting to unorthodox means to force them back to their workplaces after failing to meet their demands for better working conditions.
The country’s medical personnel, including nurses, downed tools in June this year citing a multiplicity of grievances and demanded payment of salaries in United States dollars, together with the provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs) in the face of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Senior doctors followed suit, and the government has so far failed to convince them to return to work.
“Some of our colleagues received phones calls from shadowy characters, who threatened them,” a nurse from one of Harare’s major public hospitals told the private media.
“Many are scared and because it has been too long, most will turn up for work,” the source said.
Another senior doctor chipped in saying Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government has now been resorting to unorthodox means to force the striking doctors and nurses back to work.
“It is unfortunate that our employer, instead of addressing our issues is now resorting to threats,” said the Harare based doctor, who requested anonimity for fear of victimisation.
“We are always in debt, always behind in rentals. Why did we waste all those years studying medicine? We should be looking after our parents, but instead they continue to feed us,” said the doctor.
Since dramatically assuming the reins as Health and Child Care Minister over a month ago, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is yet to meet the aggrieved health workers.
Chiwenga last year hogged the media limelight after he was asked to intervene when medical staffers went on strike, but ended up firing them.
When junior doctors embarked on a four-month-long strike in 2019, one of their leaders Peter Magombeyi was allegedly abducted by suspected state security agents.
The Government however distanced itself from the matter and, in turn, accused Magombeyi of faking his abduction.
But, Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enoch Dongo could not comment on the alleged current threats against striking nurses, saying he was still gathering details.
On the other hand, the president of the Senior Hospital Doctors’ Association, Nyasha Nyaguse could “neither confirm nor deny” the allegations.
The Zimbabwe health sector has perennially writhed in the face of poor working conditions for the country’s medical personnel and shortages of medical drugs.
Additional Reporting: Zwnews