In an interview with The Standard’s chief reporter, Everson Mushava (EM), Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) secretary general Mthabisi Bhebhe (MB) revealed why doctors did not return to work after meeting First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.
State owned media reported the doctors agreed to return to work while Government continues to look into their issues. However Bhebhe said they could not return to work based on the First Lady’s promise that Government would look into their issues. He said the doctors did not return to work because the First Lady is not a Government official and cannot make legally binding decisions.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
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EM: On Friday, your members had a meeting with First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa. What were the issues and what was the result of the meeting?
MB: She was pleading with us to go back to work while government looks into our problems and we felt it was a half-baked offer. She does not hold an official government position and like anyone else, she is just an interested party. We are directly employed by the Ministry of Health and if we have any disgruntlement, we know whom to approach. We cannot approach the President over promises made by the first lady. Yes, she has influence on him, but the proper channel is that she will have to direct our concerns to the Health ministry, which employs us. The Health minister should then take the issues to Cabinet and a decision is made, that is legally binding. The Ministry of Health manages everything about our concerns. It would have made more sense if the promise by the first lady was made by the President himself. Nonetheless, it was a good initiative that such a meeting occurred, but let me reiterate that no agreement was reached and the strike is still going ahead until our demands are met.
EM: President Emmerson Mnangagwa cut off his annual leave to reportedly attend to the crisis in the health sector. Has he made an effort to meet you?
MB: No, but we have met a lot of representatives from the President’s Office and the latest development was the meeting on Friday with the first lady.
Now there is something on the table, the ice has been broken and now the fighting spirit is no longer there. People want to negotiate. She has pacified the situation. The meeting helped a lot; people are getting to understand our grievances. Like I said before, the only problem is that she is not a government worker and cannot make legally binding decisions, which is the reason why we are still on strike. The first lady has done her part — she should now direct our concerns to our parent ministry to make concessions.