Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Zimbabwean President  Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday fired more than 200 doctors who were striking for better pay but went on to recruit six new ministers for his cabinet.

The new ministers will come at a huge cost to government, as they will receive handsome salaries and benefits at a time the country has refused to award doctors a meaningful increment, arguing that it does not have the money.

On the same day, Mnangagwa announced the appointment of a new ministry as well as five new deputy ministers. 

At 25 ministers, 18 deputy ministers and 10 provincial ministers, Mnangagwa's cabinet could now be larger than that of President Cyril Ramaphosa. Zimbabwe has a population of 14-million, slightly more than a quarter of SA's population of 58,78-million.

It has also ballooned compared with the one he inherited from the late president Robert Mugabe whom he deposed and replaced.

Mnangagwa appointed his friends and close allies to the new portfolios, with associate Daniel Garwe taking over the newly created ministry of national housing.

Another Mnangagwa ally, Kazembe Kazembe is the new minister of home affairs, a promotion from his previous position as ICT minister, which is now occupied by Jenfan Muswere.

Former commerce & industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu was reassigned to take over from from Prisca Mupfumira, who was fired as environment and tourism minister in  August following her arrest on fraud charges.

The new deputy minister posts were created for the finance, foreign affairs, local government, sport and housing ministry.

Political analyst Hopewell Chingono said the ministerial appointments were “much ado about nothing”. The showed  that government had misplaced priorities.

Zimbabwe is grappling with its worst economic crisis in a decade, amid triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of US dollars, medicines and fuel.

Doctors in Zimbabwe, who earn about $150 a month, have been on strike for more than two months to demand better pay. The  decision to fire them has left the country’s health system in shambles.

In a statement on Friday, the health services board said 211 doctors employed by the government had been fired while 516 out of 1,601 doctors on the government’s payroll —  a third of the total —  face disciplinary hearings for participating in the work boycott.

Last week, the government fired another 77 doctors for going on strike. It said it had approached the Cuban government for help and had deployed its military doctors to help in state hospitals.

The doctors’ strike has seen some patients being turned away without treatment while others have died prematurely.