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Zim to recruit more doctors as soldiers to curb perennial strikes over poor conditions

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga.

In an apparent attempt to stem the tide of constant strikes by health professionals over poor working conditions, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s Health ministry has moved to militarise the health sector.

Prospective health professionals will have to be first appointed under the Defence Forces Service Commission in order to be appointed Junior Resident Medical Officers, according to a leaked government letter (see image below).

Chiwenga was appointed Health Minister by President Emmerson Mnangagwa late last month despite claims he was constitutionally ineligible for the job when he was still substantive VP.

He replaced former Minister of Health Obadiah Moyo, who is accused of illegally awarding a $20m contract for coronavirus testing. He was arrested in June and was freed on bail pending trial.

The letter reads in part:

“The Health Service Board was, in August 2020 granted concurrence by the Ministry of Finance to appoint 407 Junior Resident Medical Officers on condition that some of them are appointed under the Defence Forces Service Commission.

“It is noted that 230 Junior Resident Medical Officers are in their final examinations and will be ready to be absorbed into service upon successful graduation. In view of the Treasury Concurrence, the Health Service Board is recommending that the 230 JRMOs be employed under the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (20F) who have indicated that they are wilting and ready to do so. Therefore, the Ministry will not be filling any of the JRMO posts in this current year.”

The leaked letter.

Zimbabwe’s doctors and nurses have been on strike several times over the past two years protesting poor salaries and working conditions, including lack of critical medicines and equipment in the country’s hospitals.

After downing tools in September last year, junior doctors agreed to go back to work after billionaire Strive Masiyiwa offered a $6.25 million fellowship to help ease doctors’ welfare.

Two months later, the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) joined their colleagues, saying they could no longer cope with the poor working conditions and the dire state of health facilities in the country.

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