Police arrested over a dozen striking nurses in Harare on Monday as a crippling work boycott by health workers intensified.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it was representing 13 nurses from Harare Hospital who were detained at Mbare Police Station.
“They are charged with contravening section 8(3)(a) of the Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment Regulations). The nurses were planning to have a feedback meeting on their present situation,” the lawyers said in a statement.
Nurses and doctors went on strike on June 17 after rejecting a 50 percent pay increase offered by the government. They are demanding to be paid in United States dollars after hyperinflation shrivelled their salaries while food and fuel prices have gone up by up to 152 percent in the last two weeks.
Placard-waving nurses also staged demonstrations at the United Bulawayo Hospitals and Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo.
The broke government, in announcing the pay increase last month, said the next salary review will be in October, incensing public sector unions including teachers who have threatened to go on strike.
Disillusionment has also been building among security forces, with both the police chief Godwin Matanga and defence minister Oppah Muchinguri warning that morale is at an all-time low. The security forces have been used to keep the regime in power by crushing opposition protests.
The Zimbabwe Nurses Association, in a statement, called on its members to “remain resolute and continue the struggle.”
It also called on nurses who have not heeded the strike call to “stop derailing the efforts of many” and to “immediately withdraw your labour.”
“We are being victimised for utilising the only available option to us. We have a right to peacefully show our displeasure with our employer,” the union said.
Last week, management at Harare Hospital sent out eviction letters to striking nurses who live in hospital accommodation. The move is set to be challenged in court.
The strike by doctors comes amid a spike in new Covid-19 cases, which health experts fear could soon overwhelm hospitals which lack basic medicines and equipment. Zimbabwe had reported 716 Covid-19 cases including eight deaths on Sunday.