A Kenyan court has jailed seven union officials over a doctors’ strike, while in Zimbabwe, government doctors are bracing for a crippling strike.
Business Day reports that the sentencing prompted the union to say it was calling off talks with the government.
With national elections due in August, the strike is fast-becoming a hot issue for President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is aiming to win a second term. Kenya’s labour court handed suspended sentences to the union officials a month ago after they ignored an earlier court order to end the strike.
But jailing them for contempt of court, Judge Hellen Wasilwa is quoted in the report as saying that the seven had provided no reason for punishment to be deferred.
“The applicants have not demonstrated to court any new and compelling issue, or pointed out any mistake or error apparent on the record, or any sufficient cause that would warrant review of the court’s order,” Wasilwa said.
The report says the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union condemned the jail sentences. “We are disappointed, we have suspended all the negotiations,” union official Thuranira Kaugiria said.
Union members and supporters would hold daily vigils outside prison until the officials were released, he said. Doctors have rejected a 40% salary rise, saying it falls short of a 2013 agreement.
And in Zimbabwe, government doctors are bracing for a crippling industrial strike, saying their employer is failing to meet their concerns. The Citizen reports that the doctors accuse the health and child care ministry of having a “lipstick approach” to their issues, saying the health sector was “pregnant with a multitude of problems emanating from gross negligence and lack of will to implement logical decisions”.
The doctors association, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), said it was puzzling that government was not even employing “well-trained post-internship doctors despite the huge investment in educating these cadres for 20 years”.
“Our doctors, including well-trained consultants, still travel to work on public transport despite the earlier promise to unveil a motor vehicle duty-free facility to the sector. Our doctors, who are furthering their studies, have been left to the gallows of the capital hungry university and are basically donating their tiny salaries to fees,” ZHDA said.
“These are only but a few of the frustrating examples of how health workers have been neglected, while on the other hand, the responsible authorities swim in bread and butter as their (children) are flying to school.
“The late President (Nelson) Mandela once highlighted that freedom can never be granted by the oppressor, but have to be fought for by the oppressed.”
According to the report, the doctors said they had made recommendations to the health ministry and the Health Services Board (HSB), describing the challenges they are facing as an “ensuing cancerous destruction of our noble profession”.
Asked if they would proceed with the strike, ZHDA president Edgar Munatsi responded: “Yes.”
The report says on several occasions last year, the doctors threatened to go on strike over poor salaries, poor working conditions, depleted and demoralised workforce as well as contracts renewal, among other challenges.
HSB executive chairp Lovemore Mbengeranwa said they were discussing the issue at a board level, adding recommendations had been made. “The health minister (David Parirenyatwa) will make an announcement soon,” he said.
The report said Parirenyatwa could not be reached for comment but in the past, he has expressed willingness to meet the doctors and chart a way forward.
Presenting the 2017 $4bn national budget last December, finance and economic development minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated $282m, down from the previous year of $331m.
The report says the Abuja Declaration states that governments should allocate a 15% vote to the health system, and Zimbabwe is a signatory to the declaration.