Most recent of which was the removal of subsidies on most basic staple commodities, resulting in exorbitant and unaffordable prices – the minister of health has thrown yet another bombshell in a myriad of bizarre decisions…medical doctors, who have been incapacitated for the past three months, would be given small Honda Fit vehicles as incentives.
I honestly could not believe my ears when I was listening to the minister’s announcement – made with a confident and proud straight face during this week’s post-cabinet meeting press briefing. I had to make sure that I listened to the news footage over and over again until it eventually sunk in. This was not some ludicrous dream, as indeed, the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe – with its plethora of PhDs and professors – had sat down and resolved that the country’s medical doctors deserved to drive in cars – commonly known as ‘mushikashika’ – synonymous with pirate commuter taxis!
This is the same government that would not hesitate blowing US$16 million on luxury vehicles for its own cabinet ministers – the same ministers who decided that doctors ought to move around in cars only fit (no pan intended) for teenage joyriding. Quite frankly, considering how this government has ruined the lives of ordinary citizens, it is the cabinet ministers themselves who deserved to drive around in Honda Fit cars – as our medical doctors, teachers and nurses are worth far much more to the nation.
These shenanigans come in the wake of the Zimbabwean authorities adamantly and callously refusing to adjust wages of these gallant men and women, in tandem with the ever-escalating cost of living, in an economy that is in a freefall, with an annual inflation of over 400% – whereby a civil servant will now be expected to fork out about a quarter of his or her monthly salary just to purchase a 50 kilogram bag of mealie meal – as the lowest paid doctor earns an equivalent of a paltry US$80.
Of course, these civil servants would additionally need to pay for accommodation rentals, electricity, water, children’s school fees (some boarding schools already demanding over ZW$3,000 per pupil per term), and – as no one can survive on mealie meal alone – other basic food stuff.
Nonetheless, instead of engaging them in meaningful and serious negotiations, those in power found it – in ‘wisdom’ and ‘sage’ only found in Zimbabwe – to rather fire over 400 doctors, during ongoing disciplinary hearings, who had been understandably failing to report for duty since September 3 this year, due to their incapacitation as a result of pathetic salaries that can not even cater for a week’s public transport fares.
Furthermore, senior specialist doctors, who have been strenuously holding the fort, have commendably also downed their tools in solidarity with their abused and mistreated colleagues.
It is also widely reported that a large number of our doctors have already started emigrating to seek employment in foreign countries where their services are well-respected and appreciated.
In the face of an already dilapidated public health care system – characterized by a gross shortage of medical personnel, medications and essential equipment – one would have expected the government to, at least, have treated these men and women – whose sacrifice to the medical needs of the suffering masses is unquestionable and unparalleled – with the respect and dignity that they so richly deserve.
There is no denying that the ever-impoverished people of Zimbabwe have benefited immensely more from our doctors, nurses and teachers – who have given all they could to their calling, in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges – as opposed to those in power, whose only hallmark has been institutionalized and unfettered corruption, inconsistent and incoherent economic policies, and a brutal human rights record.
An authoritarian leadership that would not care less even if our health care institutions were left without a single doctor or nurse, as they themselves receive their medical attention in foreign lands, such as South Africa, Singapore, and China, all at tax payers’ expense.
This nation can do very well without all those in high offices – who have actually deteriorated our standards of livelihood – but, certainly can not survive without our doctors, nurses and teachers.
Therefore, if anything, instead of wasting so many millions upon millions of dollars on worthless pleasures – such as, the chartering of exorbitant private jets for the president, expensive useless anti-sanctions marches, a pre-budget seminar that achieved zilch, and so much more looted from public funds, as the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Command Agriculture, and our natural resources – the government could offer these amounts to our civil servants.
In fact, based on the US$16 million to be splashed on luxury cars for cabinet minsters, 1000 doctors could earn US$1,300 per month for a whole year.
Considering that what our doctors, nurses and teachers earn is actually citizens’ money – as tax payers – we, the people of Zimbabwe demand that it be awarded to these most valuable men and women. The government has no right, and can never deny us that right, for us to determine what our hard-earned money should be used for…and who it should be given to.
We never signed up for our money to charter private jets from Dubai, neither have we ever sanctioned it to treat those who clearly would not give a hoot whether we die or not – due to lack of adequate medical care – to seek their own expensive treatment in foreign lands.
Our doctors, nurses and teachers are the only ones who genuinely care for us, and have our best interests at heart, and thus, they deserve what our tax money can buy. They should not be reduced to driving ‘mushikashika’, neither should they be lodging in some backyard cottages – but, more than anyone else, be granted the dignity and prestige that their commendable work is worthy.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to WhatsApp/call: +263733399640, or +263715667700, or calls only: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]