Honeymoon over for unity govt

parirenyatwa_hospital.. as public doctors go on strike
HARARE The honeymoon is slowly coming to an end for Zimbabwes six-month-old coalition government, particularly for the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which must now be seen to be an effective broker for change in the face of a restive civil service. (Pictur

The uneasy coalition between President Robert Mugabes Zanu (PF) and the MDC formations led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara faces an avalanche of job actions by its 100,000 employees, agitated by the regimes failure to meet their salary demands.

The strike season effectively commenced last week, with state doctors downing their tools on Wednesday after failing to agree new wages and allowances with the government.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (HDA) said its members downed their tools after the government refused to accept their demands for a review of salaries from the current US$170 a month to more than US$1,000.

The strike paralysed services at the country’s four major hospitals in the capital Harare and the second largest city of Bulawayo and expected to spread to other cities and towns.

HDA represents junior doctors who are bonded to government-owned hospitals while they serve their internship. After nurses, the junior doctors form the bulk of the key personnel at main hospitals.

Other government workers are expected to join the strike, with the militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) announcing last week that its members may not report for the third school term which starts in September.

Reports we are receiving from the provinces are that the teachers are not interested in coming back for the third term. We, however, need to meet soon as an association in order to come up with a clear mandate and position, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou told The Zimbabwean On Sunday.

Zimbabwes coalition government has struggled to raise funds to pay real salaries to the civil servants. All government employees are currently paid a flat US$170 a month regardless of rank or qualifications.

The strikes could pose as a litmus test for Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist who cut his political teeth as secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). Under Tsvangirais leadership, the ZCTU led a campaign of disobedience against Mugabes government in the last 1990s during which it organised mass protests in response to economic hardships.

How he handles the impending strikes would, therefore, do or break the former trade unionist. Analysts said Tsvangirai’s former union allies may be getting impatient about the MDC’s failure to bring tangible change since joining the unity government in February.

“Much as they are frustrated by Zanu (PF)’s tactics to stifle change, most MDC allies are particularly bitter about the former opposition’s failure to unlock the dictatorship to a point where basic freedoms are guaranteed,” said an analyst with a Harare-based financial group.

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