Friday, 24 December 2021

125 FIREFIGHTERS DESERT ZIMBABWE


ZIMBABWE has been hit by a flight of experienced firefighters, industry experts said this week.

The bulk of those fleeing a deteriorating economic crisis have settled in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.

This week’s reports add more gloom to a country that has already been hit by an unprecedented exodus of health professionals, 2 000 of whom left by the end of November.

Thousands more professionals in other fields have also been pursuing greener pastures out of Zimbabwe annually, with three to five million of the country’s citizens now estimated to be living in foreign jurisdictions.

The Zimbabwe Independent was recently told that the Harare City Council lost 125 employees from the fire department between 2020 and 2021.

Sources said the brain-drain has also affected other cities across the country.

In their new destinations, firefighters are said to be earning at least US$600 per month in basic salaries.

Harare City acting spokesperson Innocent Ruwende confirmed that the city was experiencing a serious shortage of firefighters.

“I can confirm that we are having a shortage of firefighters at the moment and there are vacancies for firefighters after 125 of them left the country,” Ruwende said.

“This is affecting the work schedule as some will have to work for longer hours due to short staffing. We, however, have the capacity to attend to fire breakouts, although there is a need to fill the vacancies.

“Council is working on addressing the workers’ concerns so that we do not continue losing more workers to mainly UAE and Saudi Arabia.”

Ruwende said most firefighters leaving Zimbabwe end up settling in North America, after spending a few years in the Gulf states.

Harare’s fire department was recently thrown into the spotlight after the death of prominent banker, Douglas Munatsi, who died in a mysterious inferno at his Northfields penthouse in the Avenues area.

A fire expert interviewed this week also confirmed that the brain drain at most fire departments affected operations.

“You lose resources and time. This is being caused by low remuneration offered locally and the poor working conditions where you are expected to perform wonders without the requisite tools of trade,” he said.

Harare City Council fire department chief Clever Mafoti recently said firefighting equipment was inadequate.

Other fire experts noted that most departments in Zimbabwe were relying on donated tenders, especially from the United Kingdom.

The firemen, mostly employed in big cities and towns, said several challenges, including obsolete equipment, low water pressure and failure to access high rise buildings needed to be solved.

Firefighting equipment is expensive with a tender costing approximately US$500 000.

Ideal equipment includes turntable ladders, extended ladders or hydraulic platforms, which assist firefighters to access high-rise buildings.

According to the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (Sirdc), Zimbabwe has been losing valuable human resources.

Sirdc attributes the brain drain to professional and economic causes.

“There are also pull-and-push factors. Some of the reasons for the departures stem from poor execution of capacity building and domestic policies, which result in imbalances between labour supply and demand,” the centre said. “There is an urgent need to win back the confidence of the large community of Zimbabweans of good will who are in the diaspora.

“The demand for qualified and skilled manpower for national development has become a critical global issue. It is compelling to both the rich and poor countries across the continental divide to develop policies and strategies to satisfy their human resource demands.

“Since other countries are competing with Zimbabwe for similar qualified human resources, a potentially rewarding solution might be to formulate a skills export and import policy that promotes and provides the framework for the training of human resources in Zimbabwe for the labour markets of both target countries and Zimbabwe.” Zimbabwe Independent

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