UNEMPLOYED doctors yesterday staged a protest, demanding to be employed in the ongoing recruitment exercise.

Doctors marched from Ridgeway to State House, seeking an audience with President Hakainde Hichilema.

However, they were intercepted by police officers along Independence Avenue before they could arrive at their destination.

Some senior police officers negotiated with the doctors for about 30 minutes, asking them to settle for an address by Ministry of Health permanent secretary for technical services Professor Lackson Kasonka instead.

Eventually, the doctors agreed to this and police officers escorted them back to Ridgeway, a 10-minute long walk, but before the address could start, they told officers that they needed a 10-minute water break because they were tired.

The police officers granted them the water break and some protestors were heard shouting with joy, congratulating the police officers for exhibiting professionalism.

After the water break, the unemployed doctors’ representative, Wallace Ndumba, told Prof Kasonka that they decided to protest because his Ministry had failed to state how many doctors would be employed.

“Some few days ago, we were informed that not all doctors are going to be employed. What happens to those doctors that are going to be left out? So considerately, if you do the mathematics, that is only seven per cent of the 11,200 health workers that the government is going to employ. We are not asking for too much from the government. We have waited for over two years now and this is the third year of unemployment. We cannot continue begging for employment. We are adults and we also want to progress in life, you see. We cannot afford to continue getting changing statements from the Ministry of Health. We say no to that. We are stranded and we feel we are being punished for becoming a doctor in this country. Feel for us. So having observed that the Ministry cannot give a proper timeline or plan, we are marching to the State House to get an audience from the President because at this point, we believe the President is the only one who can listen to us and help us. All we want is the voice of the President as of now,” said Ndumba.

And addressing their concerns, Prof Kasonka said recruitment planning had started, adding that everyone would be recruited.

He said the Secretary to the Cabinet would have the final say as to when they would be recruited.

“We will not start and end here because the plan of this New Dawn government is to make sure that every year there will be budgetary provision and we will be recruiting. What we want is that when you are called out and given a letter of recruitment, when you arrive at the station, the first month is that you get your salary. Not that three months elapses without you getting your salary because you have to synchronise with the Cabinet office to see that you are pressed on…no. We want it to be systematic and done correctly and in a transparent way. That is what we are doing. You will be recruited. The Secretary to the Cabinet will have the last say as to when you will be recruited. Planning for all of you has started. Recruiting planning has started. There is a plan of action but I can’t prematurely bring it and start showing it to you. So I want to assure you that everyone will be recruited,” he said.

Prof Kasonka urged doctors to stop marching in the streets but trust his words that everyone would be recruited.

“The way you are doing it and you are demonstrating, you have to understand the people that they are looking at everyone. I know your parents, including me who has a son, I also want my son to be employed but the moment you stress out and start demonstrating with coats, it has never happened on the street. People are wondering, what kind of doctors are these? So I am saying that we are thinking about you but don’t pursue it this way. Trust my words that everyone will be recruited,” assured Prof Kasonka.