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Doctors' strike 'unlawful', says Zimbabwean court

Doctors across the country are striking for a salary rise after rampant inflation lowered their pay to the equivalent of less than $100 (91 euros) a month in some cases.

FILE: Doctors in Zimbabwe embarked on a strike over pay and better working conditions. Picture: @ZHDAofficial/Twitter

HARARE - A Zimbabwe court on Friday declared a five-week doctors' strike over pay "unlawful" and gave the medics 48 hours to return to their wards.

Doctors across the country are striking for a salary rise after rampant inflation lowered their pay to the equivalent of less than $100 (91 euros) a month in some cases.

Negotiations with the government have been deadlocked since the doctors rejected a 60% pay rise and defied a health ministry order to resume work.

"The collective job action... is hereby declared unlawful," said the judgement issued by Zimbabwe's Labour Court, which ordered the strike to be "terminated forthwith".

The doctors say their pay has lost value by at least 1,500%, a legacy of economic mismanagement under Zimbabwe's ex-leader Robert Mugabe that caused millions to leave the country.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe was toppled in 2017, has so far failed on his promise to redress the situation.

Fuel prices have increased by more than 400% since the start of the year, and many Zimbabweans cannot afford the daily commute to work.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said that doctors have used up their savings just to report to hospital.

The organisation has demanded doctors' salaries be pegged to the US dollar and appealed to the UN, private businesses, churches and NGOs to supplement their wages.

"It's not a strike, it's not a collective job action, people just can't afford to go to work," said ZHDA leader Tatiwa Mungofa.

"(The ruling) didn't give us money to go back to work so the position is still the same, we are still incapacitated," he told AFP.

The court had warned of "disciplinary action" against doctors who failed to "report for duty within 48 hours".

The leader of the doctors' union, Peter Magombeyi, was abducted by suspected state agents last month, only to be released five days later after pressure from his colleagues.

He is receiving medical treatment in neighbouring South Africa.