Zimbabwe has fired 16 000 nurses who went on strike on Monday but their association has given the government until 2pm tomorrow to reverse the sacking or face legal action.
The nurses were fired by Vice-President Constantine Chiwenga who said the strike was politically motivated but the move has been widely condemned with some arguing that labour issues do not require a military solution.
The dismissal was also condemned by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which argued that the nurses were merely exercising their constitutional rights.
Chiwenga, who led the military intervention that forced former President Robert Mugabe out in November, said the Zimbabwe Nurses Association had rejected a $17 million offer to clear wage arrears but ZINA said it was open to talks with the government.
Chiwenga immediately ordered healthy officials to replace the fired nurses with unemployed and retired nurses.
Observers believe that Chiwenga’s action was meant to send a signal to other civil servants intending to strike that they can be fired and replaced by thousands of unemployed but qualified Zimbabweans.
Teachers, for example, have warned that they intend to go on strike.
Zimbabwe has been cut off from international finance for nearly two decades and currently funds its entire budget from taxes.
More than 90 percent of the budget is going to wages leaving very little for infrastructure which Zimbabwe badly needs if it is to attract investment.