The government’s response of firing nurses on industrial action and description of their action as lawlessness by the country’s highest office cannot go unchallenged. The Zanu pf government has been consistent in treating civil servants as an extension of the ruling party who are expected to tour a certain line. We saw what happened to teachers during their industrial action of the early 1990s. They were unfairly dismissed from service and those who re applied had their salaries deducted as punishment for participating in the industrial action. What is fresh in our minds is that their grievances were not attended to. We saw what happened to civil servants in local government during the land invasions. They were dismissed without being given adequate notices accused of not cooperating with Zanu pf activists. Matebeleland suffered the most as those dismissed were replaced by people from Shona speaking areas as they were viewed or are still viewed as ‘better’ loyal to Zanu pf. We accepted this treatment of government employees as by then there was no new constitution, they were no worker friendly labour laws, above that the regime was under Mugabe.
Who does not know that the Mugabe regime left nurses working under very difficult conditions, with a severe shortage of drugs, poor remuneration and heavily short staffed. Why is the government not informing the nation on the outcome of their negotiations? Is this about the strike or there is something else that we do not know? As an organisation we condemn the criminalisation of a genuine strike by nurses and urge those involved to treat this industrial action following the provisions of our country’s labour laws. Manangwagwa’s government must not preach a new dispensation but must live it. Those so-called human rights activists interviewed by the state broadcaster claiming that by their action the nurses violated the patients’ right to life need to understand that worker’s rights are human rights. If ever there is a violation of patients’ right to life the number one culprit is the current government.
We further urge the Nurses association to stand with its membership and never give in to practices that calculated to deny nurses their right and freedoms to express their grievances to their employer. This government must show that it cannot be business as usual in its treatment of its workers given the provisions of the new constitution and the amended labour laws. We urge the government to re-engage nurses with a sober and progressive mind and deviate from the past practices that were calculated to push civil servants into become an extension of the ruling Zanu pf. The other civil servants are also urged to add their voice in demanding a stop to the victimisation of nurses.
What is strange is the government’s attempt to use this madness to absorb jobless nurses that having been graduating without jobs. The call for those aged 70 and having been failing to access their retirement benefits is really surprising. This government expect a 70 year old to go and under conditions that make a 20 year old go on strike. This is a joke to say the least. Nurses must press on with their demand for better working conditions and no amount of threats must deter them. Remind them that the reason their go for treatment outside the country is the reason for your going to strike.
Statement from the Coordinator’s Office (Freedom First Project)