Zimbabwe doctors end strike after billionaire’s offer

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Zimbabwe’s doctors have agreed to return to work after accepting a funding offer from a billionaire, ending a prolonged strike.

The strike over pay and poor conditions lasted more than four months, paralysing the country’s healthcare sector.

Last year, Zimbabwean telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwa tabled an offer to break the impasse.

Mr Masiyiwa said he would set up a 100m Zimbabwean dollar ($6.25m; £4.8m) fund.

He said this fund would pay up to 2,000 doctors a subsistence allowance of about US$300 a month to help them with transport and living costs.

The billionaire, a private citizen who lives in the UK, will fund the doctors for six months through a fellowship programme run by his Higherlife Foundation, a charitable organisation.

What happens after that period, however, is not clear.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) confirmed Mr Masiyiwa’s offer had been accepted.

“In light of the recent development, the ZHDA wants to extend its gratitude to the Higherlife Foundation for extending its offer once again to all government doctors,” the ZHDA said.

“The ZHDA is encouraging its entire membership to go and apply for the training fellowship before the stipulated deadline.”

Senior and junior doctors have agreed to go back to work as part of the same deal.

Dr Tawanda Zvakada, spokesman for the ZHDA, told the BBC that doctors were “still looking for a long term solution”.

A doctor with a loud hailer shouts slogans during a protest march by senior medical doctors in Harare, on December 4, 2019. – The doctors petitioned the Zimbabwe Parliament demanding improved working conditions and the reinstatement of 448 junior doctors fired for taking part in a two month long strike over low salaries. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP) (Photo by JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Most of the striking doctors were earning less US$100 a month, leaving them struggling to buy food or get to work.

They are demanding salary increases pegged to the US dollar to cope with triple-digit inflation stoked by Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a deep economic crisis that has seen high unemployment, food shortages and rolling power blackouts.

The Zimbabwean government has said it cannot afford to increase salaries. It is yet to comment on Mr Masiyiwa’s offer.

Founder of phone network Econet Wireless, Mr Masiyiwa is thought to have a net worth of about US$1.1bn, according to Forbes.

Since 2017, Zimbabwe has been led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, following the overthrow of his long-serving predecessor Robert Mugabe by the military.

Source. BBC