Strike action like this could now see health workers in Zimbabwe facing a fine or up to six months in jail. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is signing a bill into law on Tuesday that outlaws organized protests by healthcare workers.
The new legislation comes after a protracted battle over salaries. Thousands of nurses and doctors at state-run hospitals went on strike last year, and indeed in previous years, demanding a hefty raise and wages in U.S. dollars.
That was due to a slide in the local currency and steep inflation that eroded the value of their earnings.
Nurse, Pretty Gudza, says, “I cannot pay my rent, I cannot eat, so the situation is bad and our cause is justified.”
Many nurses in Zimbabwe earn less than $100 a month.
The southern African country has seen an exodus of nurses and doctors that has left hospitals understaffed.
In November Zimbabwe’s Health Services Board said over 4,000 health workers had left the country since 2021.