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Opposition should not politicise doctors' concerns

31 Dec 2018 at 11:22hrs | Views
The ongoing labour withdrawal by over 500 junior doctors, which has endured for a month now, has provided the ideas-bankrupt opposition with cheap fodder to criticise Government over the matter. What the opposition has managed to do is bring out celebration drums to revel in the situation which, it believes, "fixes" ZANU PF and Government without sparing a thought for the affected patients or offering meaningful ideas to resolve the impasse.

Despite claiming that he would not get into power by walking over the dead bodies of Zimbabwean people, MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa last week contradicted himself by seeking to wring some non-existent political capital out of the purely labour issue by stoking conflict between the striking doctors and Government by shamelessly pressing the latter to "give doctors their teachers and civil servants in forex." It is a known fact that Zimbabwe is not receiving enough foreign currency due to low exports and that it is prioritising key areas such as the importation of medical drugs, fuel and raw materials for the manufacturing sector until the economy turns round the corner.

If Government is experiencing challenges in securing sufficient foreign currency to cover these crucial areas, where would it get enough of it to cover civil servants' salaries? Asking for the impossible from the Government indicates both the opposition and the concerned civil servants' politicisation of the matter to settle the 30 July result. A doctor who took up his vocation as a matter of natural calling and passion would prioritise the welfare of his or her patients ahead of their own. He or she would choose that Government uses the available scarce foreign currency resources to secure medical drugs and other consumables to enable them to indulge their passion of serving people rather than deprive the people of the same resources.

Given this background, Chamisa's irresponsible statement is not only careless but also exposes his lack of political maturity. No politician worth his salt would seek to perpetuate a life-threatening issue in the name of cheap political point scoring oblivious of the fact that the same people, who he is seeking to consign to death via the continuation of the strike, are the electorate he wants to vote for him in 2023. He presides over a party which dominates most urban local authorities where workers salary arrears run into several months and service delivery is deplorable to say the least but he has never said a word about these issues. Politics notwithstanding, no human being in full control of his mental faculties would seek to extend the ongoing strike by a second given the dire consequences of the work stoppage on ordinary people.

While Government superintends over the health of the nation, it does not mean that other stakeholders cannot play a role in the matter. This is why it partners other entities such as the Global Fund to deliver health. Even American organisations fund Zimbabwe's health programmes despite that country's stance against the country. This fact indicates that health is not a political matter. Opposition politicians and their hangers-on should, therefore, be very ashamed of their attempt to politicise a simple labour disagreement between Government and doctors under its employ.

It is not only Chamisa who is seeking to milk some political capital on the labour dispute as others such as the Raymond Majongwe-led Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), which is led by one largely unknown Orbert Masaraure, have positioned themselves to push the opposition's anti-Government agenda and to extort obscenely huge salaries from the cash-strapped Government.

Among the issues raised by the PTUZ was a demand for teachers to be paid US$3 000 per month. ARTUZ organised a handful of teachers to walk from Mutare to Harare during December to press Government to, among other things, pay them in United States dollars. Yes, every employee deserves their salary or wage and they should be paid but within reason and consideration of circumstances. ARTUZ, which has openly fought in the opposition's corner in the past despite the requirement that teachers should be apolitical, also criticised the recently-introduced 2 percent tax on electronic funds transfers as brutal and extortionate using typical opposition lingo.

An analysis of the two unions indicates that they are peripheral, not known by many compared to their other counterparts such as the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) and not part of the Apex Council. Their antics should, therefore, be understood in the context of their desperate quest for recognition and acceptance by the majority of teachers even if it means making patently stupid out-of-this-world demands to please their tiny constituencies.

As for the MDC, it was rejected by the people of Zimbabwe during the election except for a few legislators and one wonders for which people Chamisa was speaking as he lost the presidency poll and has no parliamentary seat. One only assumes that he was commenting on the strike issue as a private Zimbabwean citizen as he has neither the legal nor political leg to stand on regarding the matter.
Labour disputes come and go and one questions the wisdom of a whole leader of an opposition party seeking to leverage a transient issue for political mileage. This exposes the shallowness of his political mettle. No wonder he consigned him to a child playing with sand seeking opportunities to spill it into someone's meal as a way of getting back at them for some past perceived grudge such as losing an election. As for the unions all they are doing is wrongly seeking relevance and clout.

The unions should understand that Government is not an enemy which should be fixed. They should learn that Government, apart from parents, is one of the key stakeholders in the local education sector especially given that it is their employer. They should engage Government, yes, but avoid overplaying their hand to please the gallery of teachers and the opposition.

Source - Nobleman Runyanga
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