Zimbabwean telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwa has offered to pay doctors on strike in the country in order to get them to return to work.
Masiyiwa plans to set up a US$6.25 million (100 million Zimbabwean dollars) fund to financially support up to 2,000 doctors, by providing each doctor a subsistence allowance of about US$300 a month to help pay for transport and living costs.
According to Forbes, Masiyiwa currently boasts a fortune worth about $1.1 billion. The billionaire who lives in the United Kingdom will fund the doctors for six months through a fellowship program run by his charity, Higherlife Foundation.
Masiyiwa is the founder of Econet Wireless, a diversified telecommunications group headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Offer on the table
In a statement on January 21, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) confirmed that the generous offer from the billionaire has been acknowledged. “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 is encouraging its entire membership to go and apply for the training fellowship before the stipulated deadline,” the ZHDA tweeted.
Speaking to the BBC, a spokesman for the ZHDA, Dr Tawanda Zvakada, said that the doctors were “still looking for a long-term solution.” A majority of the doctors on strike are barely getting by on food and transportation. They are demanding a 400% salary hike which will take their monthly salaries to around US$111.
Zimbabwe is experiencing a severe economic crisis resulting in high unemployment, food shortages and constant power blackouts.
Abductions and dismissal of doctors
The BBC reports that the doctors are not calling it a strike – rather an “incapacitation,” claiming they cannot afford to go to work.
Shortly after protests against low wages had begun in mid-September 2019, the ZHDA’s acting president, Peter Magombeyi was kidnapped and found five days later – in pain and confused. Authorities deny having any involvement in the cases of mysterious abductions in Zimbabwe, which often leaves the victims beaten up and threatened.
Since the strike began in September last year, 448 doctors have been fired for striking and violating a labor court ruling that ordered them to return to work. Another 150 still face disciplinary hearings, as the local court has ordered doctors to return to work within 48 hours after a ruling that their boycott is illegal.