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Zimbabwe police arrest nurses striking over low pay

Nurses in Zimbabwe protest over poor salaries and demand that the government pay them in US dollars

More than a dozen nurses and union representatives protesting against poor pay in Zimbabwe have been arrested.

The president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA), Enock Dongo, said 13 members are in police custody following the association’s latest demonstration.

“At least 13 of our members and union leaders were arrested during the demonstration at Harare Hospital,” he told Agence France Presse.

“They are in police cells as we speak but we don’t know what charges they are facing.”

The health workers said their salaries are being eroded because of inflation in Zimbabwe, which is very high.

Pay us in US dollars

Members of ZINA came together last week and agreed to protest about their poor salaries.

They took to the streets in their hundreds despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Southern African nation.

The group held that their salaries, which are already meagre, are being eroded by inflation, which is now running at nearly 800%.

They are demanding that the government pay them in US dollars, as they consider this to be a fairer way of compensating them.

ZINA represents roughly 15,000 state nurses and is the country’s largest nurses’ union.

No support

The nurses accused the government of not supporting them, even though they risk their lives on the front line fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.

A similar protest took place in March after the government failed to provide personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

Some of the protesting nurses said that besides the lack of practical support at work, their meagre salaries have also made life very difficult for them.

The average salary of a nurse in Zimbabwe has shrunk from the equivalent of US$800 in 2008 to $35 currently.

“The situation is terrible. We can’t afford to pay rent,” fumed Moses Sigauke. Another nurse, Mike Chingau, said: “We are all stressed out. We have become a danger to the patients we are supposed to look after.”

E A Alanore

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