PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday told a Zanu-PF central committee meeting in Harare that he appointed Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga to head the Health portfolio to sort out striking doctors and nurses with a “soldier mentality”.Chiwenga was appointed to the portfolio last month following the ouster of Obadiah Moyo, who is facing abuse of office charges that also involve associates of Mnangagwa’s Family.
The former Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, who traded the military fatigue for political office after a military coup that ousted the late former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017, came into the health portfolio amid a crippling job action by nurses demanding a living wage.
“We realised that year after year, we would not go for four or five months without a strike in the health sector. I realised we needed a soldier there. We had to second a soldier there and now they are back at work,” Mnangagwa said in apparent reference to Chiwenga.
In August, armed police were deployed to beat up striking nurses at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital in Harare, while others were also deployed in Bulawayo and other cities. Nurses were also arrested for downing tools during that period.
Chiwenga, soon after his appointment, pleaded with the health workers to return to work and pledged to end the culture of looting by those politically connected.
He came in when the health workers had declared war on their employers, insisting they would not go back to work before their concerns were raised.
Their concerns included United States dollar-pegged salaries, personal protective equipment, among other essentials, and the government had failed to convince them to go back to work.
There were reports soon after his appointment that Chiwenga was targeting some members of Mnangagwa’s family who were fingered in the COVID-19 looting scandals that involved alleged abuse of millions of dollars.
Several people, including Moyo and one Delish Nguwaya, a close associate of the Mnangagwa family, have since been arrested over the scandals, while journalists who exposed the said rot have either been arrested or are in hiding.