DOCTORS Strike: Govt deploys Chiwenga; VP previously fired all striking nurses

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By Idah Mhetu

CABINET has deployed Vice President Constantino Chiwenga deal with the strike by junior doctors which is now in its third week.

The doctors have defied appeals by the government to return to work, demanding firm assurances regarding their grievances.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa confirmed during a post-cabinet briefing Tuesday that Chiwenga was now overseeing resolution of the stand-off.

“Cabinet, while noting the on-going efforts to resolve the matter, agreed that henceforth, the engagement process be under the guidance of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga,” she said.

“We are looking at the issue very seriously and bringing in the second highest office of the government to make sure that they work very closely.”

Earlier this year, Chiwenga fired thousands of nurses who had gone on strike, demanding higher salaries.

The vice president claimed that the strikes were politically motivated.

Mutsvangwa however, downplayed concerns that Chiwenga might employ similarly heavy-handed tactics against the doctors.

“It’s not like the vice president will be negotiating with the doctors; rather the minister of health will now be reporting to the Vice President on daily basis so that the strike comes to an end,” she said.

“We would like our doctors to take our patients seriously and consider that we are now getting into the festive season and our people will be travelling to their homes, so it is important that our hospitals are properly manned.”

Junior doctors downed tools some three weeks ago, citing an array of grievances ranging from poor remuneration to ever-deteriorating working conditions.

A spirited campaign by the government urging the doctors to “put lives first” has fallen on deaf ears and with radiographers and senior doctors also joining the industrial action.