In protests against firing, Zimbabwe nurses offer free health care to public

Scores of fired Zimbabwe nurses on Friday protested the government’s decision to dismiss them for striking over low salaries and poor working conditions.

 Zimbabwe nurses


The nurses were in their white uniforms as they demanded the government to reverse its decision to fire the majority of the 15,000 nurses who took part in the industrial action on Monday.

They also offered free clinic to the public outside the country’s parliament in the capital Harare.

“We are doing this to show that we are for the people,” Pretty Mugudza, a nurse based at Harare Central Hospital told the CNN after addressing members of the public who had gathered Africa Unity Square adjacent to Zimbabwe’s parliament building.

“All we are asking for are better working conditions. We can’t be looking at patients dying in hospitals because we have no resources,” she said.

Their walk-out comes just barely a week after a month-long strike by the doctors.

“We want to go back to work but we cannot go back when we do not have enough resources,” Pretty Gudza, a Harare-based nurse told AFP. “We are putting our lives at risk.”

The country’s Vice President Chiwenga on Monday fired the striking nurses saying they refused to go back to work after the $17m was released to improve their pay. He accused them of being “politically motivated”.

According to Charles Murira, a midwife, the situation in hospitals was dire following government’s decision to fire the nurses.

“The situation is so bad, patients are dying. The wards are closed, there are no nurses, they have been fired and barred to work in hospitals,” Murira said.

Murira has refuted the Vice President’s remarks saying: “We are apolitical. We are patriotic, we are not politicians.”

“When the vice president chased us we feel threatened in Zimbabwe, this is our country, our land, we cannot do anything negative to our country,” he added.

But the government is adamant that the decision to sack the nurses will not be reversed with the Ministry of Health ordering heads of hospitals to recruit new nurses to replace those sacked.

“We aren’t going back on fired nurses. But they are free to apply if they still want to work,” Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said.

The striking nurses were joined by ordinary citizens and rights activists in the protest.

They wrote letters demanding the nurses get re-hired, putting them in boxes to be handed over to the government.

On the boxes were inscriptions “Bring back our nurses now” and “#Dear VP”.

According to the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the directive to sack the nurses lacks legal merit as it is in contravention of their constitutional rights.

Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to tackle the country’s dire economic crisis which created mass unemployment, emigration and a severe shortage of banknotes.

The country will be heading to the polls in July or August and for the first time former President Robert Mugabe will not be on the ballot paper.

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