Zimbabwean doctors are continuing their strike despite the 48-hour ultimatum issued by federal officials after rejecting doctor demands to be paid in U.S. dollars rather than the steadily devaluing “bond notes.”
On Saturday, the government gave protesters until Monday evening to end their nearly two-month-long strike. Five o’ clock came and doctors hardened their resolve for better pay, medicine, and equipment, working conditions, and medication for patients.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) was tasked to convince protesters to return to their employers, however on Tuesday evening, the association released a statement saying members “felt that the agreement did not take cognizance of their immediate incapacitation in a raging economy, as no current offer was made on the remuneration of the doctors to improve their welfare.”
“Additionally, there were no timelines and evaluable targets for the provision of drugs and protective equipment to government hospitals,” the statement said.
The nation’s economic crisis caused the country to shift from traditional currency to “bond notes” in 2008 which in theory were meant to equate the dollar. However, the sheer shortage of physical cash has decreased the value of the bond.
Pharmacies refused to accept bond notes in exchange for medicine. In black markets, higher banknotes can be exchanged for petty U.S. cash. While the service industry has taken to offering deals to consumers who are able to pay in dollars.
The medical field is not the only sector taking the streets in wide protests, with teachers joining demonstrations, boycotting classes, and shutting down schools.
Of the 100,000 teachers employed in Zimbabwe, just under half- primarily in rural sectors- are participating in the strike.
On Tuesday, a statement from the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association said, “Our members are unable to report for duty. To enable the teachers to report for work and to subsist, we demand the payment of salaries in US dollars.”
Sifiso Ndlovu, chief executive of Zimbabwe Teachers Association, said, “We have a shortage of 19,000 teachers who need to be replaced according to the new curriculum. The pupil to teacher ratio is at 1:70 and sometimes goes up to 1:101 in worst case scenarios. If we look at the budget, it was not increased and is at a standstill.”
Zimbabwe has the world’s lowest pay for both teachers and doctors.
Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Raymond Majongwe, said, “The issue of the demand to be paid in U.S. dollars is a reality and we are not going to flinch on that.”