Government adopts strategic measures to thwart protests by doctors


Amid escalating strikes and protests by health workers in the country in recent months, the government adopted controversial new measures which were seen by many as an attempt to muzzle the right to unionise. On 28th September 2020, the government announced that newly graduated doctors would now be recruited into the army as military doctors as a requirement to work in government hospitals. The move followed the recent appointment of the vice president and army general, Constantino Chiwenga, as the minister of health and child care after a series of protests by health professionals.

Critics denounced this move as a ploy to prevent doctors from engaging in industrial action such as labour strikes, and also to prevent them from seeking opportunities abroad. Zimbabwe’s constitution does not allow members of the armed forces to engage in collective bargaining or join trade unions.

Norman Matara, secretary of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights expressed concern at the new measures, and said:

“We think that this is a move to clip the wings of doctors and make sure that they do not exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to go on industrial action by making them part of the ZDF.”

As previously reported on the Monitor, doctors and nurses in the country have held several strikes and protests in recent months to demand better salaries and working conditions.