The government yesterday cancelled its plan to give an official statement in the National Assembly regarding the doctors’ strike, explaining that the matter was still pending in court, which is an independent arm of the state.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda had promised in the House that he would give a government statement yesterday, but failed to do so to the disappointment of legislators and the general public eagerly waiting for it.
Explaining the reason for the failure, House Speaker Anne Makinda said after dwelling on the matter deeply and at length, the executive and parliament arms of the state decided to hold the statement for the time being until the judiciary arm was done with its part.
Pinda told the House during 30-minute direct questions to the PM session that the government had already taken measures to address the problem, one of them being using Lugalo Military Hospital and its branches to treat patients.
The premier, who was responding to a question by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Freeman Mbowe, also informed the legislators that plans were underway to hire retired doctors to assist in treating patients in some key hospitals affected by the strike.
The premier also said that the government has instructed the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to dispatch doctors serving in administrative and other positions there to different hospitals to attend to patients.
However, Pinda said that despite these temporary measures, the government would continue the dialogue with the striking doctors to resolve the matter once and for all.
In his question, Mbowe had also wanted the government to state its position regarding sentiments that its agencies were involved in the beating up of Dr Steven Ulimboka, a key leader in the ongoing doctors’ strike.
Responding, Pinda said that his statement had no connection with what happened to Dr Ulimboka because as he was speaking he was not aware of what had happened to the doctors' leader.
“I know my statement has been interpreted in different ways, but what troubled me was that I knew the matter was still in the High Court and giving a government statement means interfering with the work of another arm of the state,” he explained.
Pinda said the government met on Wednesday evening with other organs to discuss the matter and they were advised not to issue any statement because the matter was pending in court.
However, he said the incident of the beating up of Dr Ulimboka should be probed thoroughly because before he was kidnapped and tortured, dialogue on the stand-off between the government and doctors’ side were “progressing very well”.
“This act needs to be investigated and we have ordered respective agencies to speed up the investigation so as to establish the truth …there are different perceptions concerning these acts. Others think that the government is involved… I call upon the public to be patient, as the government probes the matter,” appealed Pinda.
Meanwhile, Special Seat MP (CCM) Martha Mlata has asked the government to investigate reports that some groups of people finance doctors to strike and thereby disrupt justice and order “to make the country difficult to rule”.
In response, Pinda said the rumour had also come to his attention. “I also heard the same," he said, adding: "The doctors’ strike has so many things going on around it…the government has already directed security organs to investigate and establish the truth of the allegations”.
In another development, Speaker of the National Assembly Anne Makinda said she had officially closed the debate on the doctors’ strike, saying the arm of the state she is leading cannot discuss the matter which is pending in court.
“Another arm of the state (the Judiciary) is complaining that we are debating things which are already in court…therefore, the government won’t give its statement today,” Makinda explained.