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Zimbabwe billionaire to pay doctors about $300 a month to end strike

The doctors went on strike on 3 September to protest against poor wages and a lack of adequate equipment and medicines, leaving many poor people unable to get treatment.

Group Executive Chairman for Econet Wireless Global Strive Masiyiwa speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on 25 September 2018 in New York City. Picture: AFP

HARARE - Striking junior doctors at Zimbabwe’s state hospitals will end a four-month strike after accepting an offer from a telecoms billionaire to pay them a monthly allowance of about $300 for six months, their union said on Thursday.

The doctors went on strike on 3 September to protest against poor wages and a lack of adequate equipment and medicines, leaving many poor people unable to get treatment.

Junior doctors in Zimbabwe earn an average of just over $200 a month, including allowances.

Strive Masiyiwa, through his philanthropic arm Higher Life Foundation, last November set up a 100 million Zimbabwe dollar ($5.9 million) fund for the striking doctors.

The doctors initially rejected that offer, saying it was not a permanent solution to their grievances.

Forbes estimates that Masiyiwa, who lives in Britain and owns Zimbabwe’s biggest telecoms company, Econet Wireless, among other businesses, has a net worth of $1.1 billion.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), which represents junior doctors, said its members should now apply to the fund while negotiations with the government continue.

“This is not a long-lasting solution but this is an opportunity for our members to go back to work and finish their training,” Tawanda Zvakada, the ZHDA spokesman, said.

There are nearly 2,000 doctors working for the government.

Under the funding, the doctors would receive a monthly stipend of 5,000 Zimbabwe dollars, a smartphone, transport and uniforms over and above their government pay.

Triple-digit inflation is eroding salaries and savings in Zimbabwe, angering workers who accuse President Emmerson Mnangagwa of failing to live up to his 2018 election promise to revive the economy.

The government fired 450 striking doctors in November saying their actions were illegal.

Health Minister Obadiah Moyo could not be reached for comment.