ACTING President Constantino Chiwenga has with immediate effect ordered the Nurses Council of Zimbabwe (NCZ) to stop issuing Nurses’ Verification Letters, a key document for those seeking employment outside the country.
The retired army chief, who in 2018 fired hundreds of nurses for engaging in industrial action over poor wages, is now being accused of militarising the health sector.
Last year Chiwenga initiated the Health Services Amendment Bill meant to bar health sector workers, including poorly paid doctors from engaging in industrial action.
This followed a three-month long strike which government resolved by force and threats.
Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU) president Robert Chiduku said considering that government had for long neglected them, Chiwenga’s actions were evil.
In a memo to nurses seen by NewZimbabwe.com, Chiduku blasted Chiwenga who he said had suspended all engagements between health related unions and had not had one meeting with them since President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced him acting Health minister last year.
“The ministry of health has with immediate effect banned nurses’ council from issuing nurses verification thereby thwarting the dreams of young nurses who want to go to greener pastures to secure a future for their families,” said Chiduku.
“The Exodus of nurses is a clear indication of a failed government which has nothing to offer except use of force. If you see your child rushing to eat in the neighborhood, then you as a father are a disgrace, you don’t beat the child, but you should provide the food. This government should simply address bread and butter issues only, that simple. The Zimbabwean nurses were neglected by the current government long back and this has necessitated their exodus to the diaspora in search of sustainable salaries, for the current government has nothing to offer them except propaganda, oppression and victimisation.”
Chiduku said Chiwenga should demilitarise his thinking when dealing with nurses as they had had enough.
He highlighted that the ministry had become an appendage of the defence ministry.
He added: “There is heavy military domination in the top echelons of the health ministry. The minister is from military, the permanent secretary is from the military, the director of nursing is from the military. The list goes on and this trend is disastrous. They have now hijacked the ministry.”
“We condemn militarisation of health ministry. The ministry of health has now become a subset of the universal defense ministry. Let the soldiers be in the army, they will do a good job there. They are now implementing their useless military philosophies in the wrong trade now.”
Nurses who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com said they were worried continuing to work in Zimbabwe will further impoverish them hence their desire to leave.
“Most of the nurses in your hospitals want to leave, it does not make sense anymore to be here,” said a Harare nurse who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation.
Nurses earn around ZW$20 000, equivalent to US$100, on the black market and US$178 at the ostracised interbank rate.
Enticing wages and working conditions in Namibia, South Africa and the United Kingdom among other countries had been fuelling the exodus Chiwenga now seeks to stop.