By Parliament Correspondent
LEADER of government business in Parliament Ziyambi Ziyambi claimed Wednesday that only a few doctors and nurses were on strike as he reiterated the administration’s refusal to pay salaries in foreign currency.
Public health workers have been on strike since Monday, demanding – among other things – that their salaries should be paid United States dollars.
The job action was brought up in Parliament by legislators who demanded to know what government was doing to end the strike.
Said opposition MP Sipho Mokone; “Minister, on Monday we saw the nurses and doctors downing tools, which means that no one can access healthcare right now in Government hospitals.
“The situation is very bad, especially for the expectant mother because there is no one who is there to assist the woman when she is due to give birth.”
Opposition colleague Murisi Zwizwai interjected asking about the whereabouts of Vice President and health minister Constantino Chiwenga who has not been heard from since the strike started.
Speaker Jacob Mudenda immediately ordered Zwizwai to withdraw the statement to which the MP responded;
“Yes Mr. Speaker Sir, I withdraw the statement that I had stated and queried where the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Hon. Chiwenga and his wife are when the country is on fire. I withdraw, Sir.”
Meanwhile Ziyambi denied claims by legislators that the strike had crippled the country’s healthcare sector, saying only a few nurses and doctors had joined the job action.
“It is not very correct that the majority of them were on strike, it is only a few who were on strike yesterday or the day before and they have been advised that negotiations for a salary increase are ongoing and they must go back to their stations.”
Ziyambi also categorically ruled out government giving in to demands by the workers for US dollar salaries.
“We are working towards removing whatever factors that are influencing the decline of our currency,” he said.
“However, we cannot and we will not determine salaries on the basis of the USD. We will work around improving our economy and strengthening our currency but will never go to a scenario where we peg salaries using the USD.”
The minister added that negotiations were ongoing between the striking workers and their employer but was challenged by MPs on when the strike would be resolved and normal services can resume at the country’s public health facilities.
“If two or more people are having a negotiation, the aim is that they should quickly have a conclusion but the purpose is to achieve consensus,” said Ziyambi.
“We have Government workers and the Government who are trying to come together so that they come up with something that is good for each of the sides. So our main aim with negotiations is to conclude as soon as possible.
“However, we have made an offer in line with the finances that we have, so we await for them to come back to us to say if their constituents is happy with the proposal that we have tabled.”