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13 protesting nurses arrested

BY MOSES MATENGA/DARLINGTON MWASHITA/PHYLLIS MBANJE ARMED police yesterday stormed Sally Mugabe Hospital in Harare and arrested 13 nurses for allegedly planning to protest over poor remuneration. NewsDay arrived at the hospital and witnessed the nurses being bundled into a police truck before they were later charged for allegedly contravening COVID-19 national lockdown regulations. Dozens of riot police officers were milling around to block another likely protest after the arrest of the nurses and some leaders of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina). The lawyer representing the arrested nurses, Tinashe Chinopfukutwa from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said 12 of the arrested nurses were to spend the night in police cells while one had asked to pay an admission of guilt fine as she was breastfeeding. “They had gathered for a feed back meeting from Zina. They have been charged for breaching COVID-19 regulations and indications are that they are going to be detained overnight and appear in court tomorrow (today),” he said. “They had been called by their association for a feedback meeting and they were gathering for that meeting when the police arrived and arrested them.” Police confirmed the arrests and that the nurses will likely appear in court today. National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said: “Thirteen nurses were arrested over violation of COVID-19 regulations particularly social distance guidelines.” No one was attending to the patients and those who spoke to NewsDay said nurses from the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services had of late been called in to assist as the situation was untenable and those working were overwhelmed. Zina said it was unfortunate that the government chose “such a brutal” way to respond to their concerns. “If ever we are in doubt about the nature of the government’s response to our genuine plight, this is the clearest evidence we could have got,” the nurses’ association said. Nurses downed tools two weeks ago demanding their salaries be pegged in US dollars in relation to the 2018 rate. Government increased civil servants salaries by 50% and in addition offered them a COVID-19 allowance of US$75 each which will run for three months. Nurses accused the government of being insincere, adding that they were yet to receive the COVID-19 allowances government announced last month and in the absence of clarity on when it would be paid, police were unleashed to deal with them. “We have lost our earnings already through slave wages so we have nothing more to lose.” “Secondly, government proceeded to refuse to discuss improving the reviews and instead rendered the Bipartite Negotiating Panel useless by unilaterally declaring that it was not willing to negotiate for three months,” the nurses said. They argued that they were now being victimised and arrested for utilising the only option available. Public hospitals continue to buckle under the strain caused by the striking nurses with most reporting reduced service delivery. The situation at Sally Mugabe Hospital

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