PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has stood by his deputy Constantino Chiwenga who has come under fire for his punitive decision last week to fire over 15,000 striking nurses.
Chiwenga, leader of government’s social services cluster, took the widely condemned stance to fire the nurses through a press statement which was later followed with dismissal letters.
The VP has stuck to his guns in the wake of fierce criticism and threats of a suit against government.
He was adamant the job action by the nurses few months before elections was a politically motivated and a deliberate ploy to throw spanners in Zanu PF leaders’ election prospects on behalf of opponents.
Mnangagwa was the much needed voice of reason when Chiwenga sacked some top police officers soon after the new government was formed following then President Robert Mugabe’s ouster November last year.
In the wake of the current confusion, the President was widely expected to intervene again, possibly in favour of the nurses, with signs the former military commander turned country’s number two had overstepped his mandate in the summary dismissals.
But Mnangagwa has emerged to side with his deputy, putting paid to any hopes of the nurses unconditionally overturning their misfortune.
The President was speaking at a recent field day at a farm owned by Irvene Taguta of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church.
Mnangagwa said striking nurses had been offered $17 million which was due to reflect in their individual bank accounts soon after the independence holidays.
He said it was difficult to understand they still refused to return to work even when guarantees had been made, forcing government to take the bold decision.
The President said nurses chose to prioritise their wages at the expense of patients who continued to die as a result of the job action.
“We saw that in those two days, a lot of people would still die and in that case, we are firing you. All the jobless nurses in the country must go and get the jobs,” Mnangagwa said while speaking in Shona.
“In the case of the nurses who had complied and returned to work, we are giving them their monies and the rest we are giving them an opportunity to reapply to be considered back. To those who were jobless, whoever they are, come and get a get a job. We felt there was foul play.”
Since becoming the country’s leader, Mnangagwa has presented a totally different image of the cruel Zanu PF politician whose name dominates the country’s most violent post liberation episodes.
Mnangagwa is keen to win his first popular mandate as the country’s leader after muscling his way into the apex of government through a soft coup.
His stance on the nurse’s dismissals is a surprise departure from a charm offensive which has seen him extend overtures to political rivals, release prisoners, scrap controversial indigenisation laws and attempt to mend bridges with the country’s rivals.