Government not involved in doctor’s abduction: Kikwete
By Collins Atohengbe, Pretoria
The Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, has denied allegation of government involvement in the abduction and torture of the Chairman of the Medical Association of Tanzania, Dr. Steven Ulimboka.
"I am aware that the government is also being named in the list of suspects. I am very shocked by these suspicions; why would the government want to harm Dr Ulimboka?"
Dr. Ulimboka was abducted by gunmen last Tuesday, after the Medical Association embarked on a nationwide Doctors' strike demanding for higher wages and working conditions.
The doctors were demanding a starting monthly salary of 3.5 million Tanzanian shillings ($2 200) plus allowances equivalent to 140% of the salary, while the government was prepared to offer them a maximum pay of 1.2 million Kikwete shillings.
The action has left many patients unattended in state owned hospitals.
While urging the Striking Doctors to return to work, President Kikwete said that apart from the strike being illegal, unethical and not in the interest of Tanzanians, doctors' starting salary of 957,700 Tanzanian Shillings is already twice the average starting salary of other civil servants.
“We can't promise that we can pay them a starting salary of 3.5 million shillings and all those allowances. If we do that, the total starting pay package for a doctor would be 7.7 million shillings. We definitely can't afford this amount. This level is too huge. A good ratio is to have a wage bill not exceeding 35% of the budget so 65% of the budget can be used to finance services and other development projects”.
He said government will consider raising workers salary by between 15% and 20% in its 2013 budget but will not triple the salaries of doctors as demanded by their representatives and warned striking medics to return to work or risk being sacked.
The high cost of living in Tanzania has caused anti-government sentiments, leading to mounting pressure from public sector workers and others for an upward wage review.
Tanzania's inflation rate fell marginally in May, but still remained double digits of 18.2%, similar to what is obtainable in other countries within the East African region.