Government has allegedly directed the country’s general hospitals to release nurses to attend President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s labour conference on Wednesday in the capital, a leaked memo written by Health and Child Care secretary Jasper Chimedza has revealed.
The conference dubbed “Nyika Inovakwa Nevene Vayo” (a country is built by its citizens) President Meets Young Labour Conference” will be held at the Harare International Conference Centre tomorrow.
In the memo dated December 9, 2022, addressed to chief medical officers and provincial medical directors, Chimedza directed hospitals such as Parirenyatwa, Sally Mugabe, Chinhoyi, Kadoma and Marondera to release 200 trained nurses and 300 student nurses below the age of 35 for Mnangagwa’s conference.
“The Ministry of Labour and Social Service will provide fuel for institutional transport to ferry the students and staff as well as lunch and refreshments. In the event where(by) institutional transportation is not available, please indicate how many would require reimbursement of bus fares and indicative amounts,” the memo read.
Chimedza’s phone was not reachable yesterday to confirm the authenticity of the memo, but one of the provincial medical directors confirmed receiving it.
“I have received the communication,” the provincial medical director who refused to be named said.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo could not be drawn to comment on the issue.
“Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the issue,” Dongo said.
Medical doctor Mlungisi Ndebele said he was afraid that the directive for nurses to attend the conference would cripple hospital operations in the capital at a time when they are short staffed.
Hundreds of nurses are currently leaving the country for greener pastures following government’s failure to remunerate them well and to improve their working conditions.
“The country has witnessed a massive exodus of health staff in search of greener pastures. I am afraid that taking some nurses in hospitals to attend the conference will paralyse operations,” Ndebele said.
To avert further strikes by health personnel, government introduced the Health Services Amendment Bill, which seeks to bar health professionals from participating in industrial action.
The Bill has been passed despite being described as undemocratic.
Health Ambassadors for ED, a shadowy group that seeks to mobilise all health workers to support Mnangagwa’s candidature in next year’s polls defended the meeting saying he had a right to meet civil servants to boost their morale.
“Our President is a listening leader. He is planning to meet citizens who are contributing to the building of the nation. He knows that young people are the future; that is why he is meeting people below the age of 35. We are happy that he has also decided to include health practitioners. Healthy nurses create a healthy nation,” Primrose Kundarwo, the secretary of the group said.
The Health Ambassadors for ED is one of the many parallel structures that have been created within Zanu PF in support of Mnangagwa’s 2023 presidential campaign.
These include Varakashi for ED, Young Women for ED, Men BelievED, Mahwindi for ED, Pastors for ED, Teachers for ED, Councillors for ED, Mapostori for ED and Bornfrees for ED.
In October, President Mnangagwa met Teachers for ED on a school day and event was viewed by many as having paralysed learning at several schools.
Back then Mnangagwa indicated that the teachers were crucial for Zanu PF’s re-election bid, saying: “If the party loses the co-operation of the teachers, we lose the game.”