Inherent in the dismissal of striking public service nurses is a hangover from a military mindset drilled to a regimented environment. As I see it, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga might no longer be in boots, but the army culture still prevails in him.

By Cyprian Ndawana

Given that he has been the military boy and man, in which the practice of barking out orders is the norm, with all due respect, he needs some hand holding and coaching for him to get an inclination of civilian life in general, and government and politics in particular.

He has my sympathies as nurses ridicule and pour scorn on him. It is my fervent hope and prayer that he humbles himself and absorb the denigrations as the essential baptism of fire for cleansing and equipping him for the high office he now occupies.

There is a learning curve every novice in any endeavour of life has to labour through before mastering the trade. Chiwenga, though a military veteran, he is a political upstart who has to go through the paces, if need be, he has to burn the midnight oil.

By dismissing the striking nurses on the eve of the 38th nationhood anniversary, he displayed the paucity of his conception. While the summary dismissal was flawed, it was worsened by the day it was announced. He watered down the significance of liberation.

However, with him now on the horn of dilemma, vilified not only by the nurses, but by citizenry at large, the public outcry is inevitable, given the far reaching ramifications of his dismissals. His guilt of compromising the health of citizenry can not be camouflaged.

In view of the callous manner with which the nurses were handled, as I see it, the said new dispensation recklessly exposed its flank. It deprived itself of the self-respect that could have endeared it with the citizenry, more so that elections are looming large in the horizon.

As if the dismissal, announced in the media, was not sufficiently messy, government aggravated the problem by being lethargic in its approach. There was no incentive whatsoever for it to scapegoat, blaming the influence of a third hand in the strike.

With nurses earning only but a dime, and working under stressful conditions due to shortages of all necessities that make hospitals function well, it is to think shallow of them that they would need opposition political instigation to go on strike.

Overall conditions for medical practitioners have been crying out for attention ever since Andrew Flemming Hospital was renamed Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. Since the days of Herbert Ushewokunze, the first post-independence Health minister, the red flag has been flying.

Save for cutting ribbons here and there, incumbent Health minister David Parirenyatwa, whose father was named after the country’s largest referral hospital, is a low energy man who seems contented to drift with the winds, waves or tides. He does not stick his neck out for the betterment of healthcare provision.

Since independence, medical practitioners downed tools umpteen times, only to be repeatedly accused of being reactionaries bent on reversing the gains of independence.

Strikes are a common occurrence within the public health sector, yet underfunding persists.

It is known in the corridors of power that the public health sector is in the intensive care. With former President Robert Mugabe having foreign medical trips included in his retirement package, it goes without mention that they are aware of the dilapidation of local hospitals.

It is for this reason why all bigwigs shun public hospitals. President Emerson Mnangagwa took a hasty beeline to a South African hospital for treatment following the ice-cream poisoning allegation. And Vice-President Kembo Mohadi is in the care of a foreign hospital.

Against such overwhelming evidence, as I see it, it is foolhardy for government to apportion blame for the strike to the instigation of the opposition. It is about time the truth be told that our public health sector is an eloquent evidence of a failed nation.

When Chiwenga dismissed the striking nurses, he conversely ran on a collision course with the said new dispensation mantra, “Zimbabwe is open for business”. There are no ways a citizenry stranded for healthcare services can constitute a country open for business.

While I give him the benefit of doubt, ironically, one of the messages on Mnangagwa’s campaign billboards talks about accessible and affordable medical care. One wonders how this can be achieved when the labour force through whom healthcare is accessed is disdained.

Frankly, a regime that brands itself as a new dispensation cannot afford to commit such elementary violations as being callous to the labour force. A government that negates the welfare of its employees cannot be trusted to run a country that will be open for business. The Robert Mugabe era of heavy-handedness must not be replicated.

Mnangagwa must be heaving a sigh of relief for turning down the public debate proposed by opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa. His government brought fodder to the opposition by handling the strike with amateurish ineptitude.

As nurses resume duty, government must hit the ground running to appraise the likes of Chiwenga on employees relations practice. Otherwise, Mnangagwa will be viewed not as being his own man, but as a Mugabe by another name.

Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana, email muketiwa.mmsb@gmail. com is a public speaking coach, motivational speaker, speechwriter and newspaper columnist.