Zambian President slams opposition leader for ‘inciting’ striking medics

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Zambian President Michael Sata and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema – Photo: Zambia reports


Lusaka, Zambia – Zambian President Michael Sata has lashed out at opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, whom he said should desist from acting like a “Merchant of Death” for allegedly inciting striking nurses, pharmacists and midwives not to return for work.

President Sata’s remarks followed Hichilema’s visit on Wednesday to the University Teaching Hospital [UTH] in Lusaka, where he addressed striking nurses, pharmacists and midwives who have been on strike for the past four days.

But President Sata on Thursday said it was unfortunate that the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader had embarked on a ‘cruel and self-centred’ mission of encouraging striking health workers without scruple or regard for innocent people’s lives.

Sata wondered how Hichilema expects the Zambian people, particularly the relatives and friends of those suffering as a result of the strike, to vote for him, if he is in the forefront of cheering the striking workers.

“Mr. Hichilema’s cheap attempt to gain political mileage from strikes when multitudes of our people’s lives are at stake is not only regrettable but callous. This level of self-centredness and desperation should be avoided by leaders especially those seeking public office,” President Sata said in a statement issued Thursday.

Nurses, pharmacists and midwives at the country’s largest hospital, the University Teaching Hospital, are on strike to press for the harmonisation of salary structures after noticing a number of anomalies.

The striking medical workers on Wednesday refused to meet with Health Minister Joseph Kasonde, who had gone to assure them that government had started rectifying the pay roll distortions.

President Sata Thursday urged the striking nurses, pharmacists and midwives to resume work immediately, saying the government was handling their matter competently.

Meanwhile, Hichilema has urged President Sata to quickly address the challenges in the health sector.

In a letter to President Sata released Thursday, Hichilema claimed that the harmonisation of salaries is being implemented in a haphazard manner and has demoralised health professionals.

The UPND leader, who said he had carried out an on-the-ground assessment of the situation at UTH where he also found the pharmacy closed, noted that since government officials got their 100 percent increment and were paid on time, it is morally right that government does the same for the nurses and midwives.