Zimbabwe doctors march to support 'abducted' union activist

16 September 2019 - 15:52 By LENIN NDEBELE and afp
Doctors sing and hold placards during a protest on September 16 2019 over the disappearance of the leader of their union in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Doctors sing and hold placards during a protest on September 16 2019 over the disappearance of the leader of their union in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Doctors in Zimbabwe downed tools and marched to president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s offices on Monday in response to the abduction of their workers’ union acting president, Dr Peter Mugombeyi.

Mugombeyi went missing on Saturday and is suspected to be in state custody.

In a letter addressed to Mnangagwa, the doctors "demand his unconditional return to his family", but the state has said he is not in their custody.

Health minister Obadiah Moyo claimed to have activated all state security agents to be on the lookout for the doctor.

The alleged abduction comes at a time when Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, is due in the country this week.

Zimbabwean doctor Peter Mugombeyi, who was allegedly abducted.
Zimbabwean doctor Peter Mugombeyi, who was allegedly abducted.
Image: Twitter via @ZctuZimbabwe

Magombeyi has been missing since Saturday night, after sending a WhatsApp message saying he had been "kidnapped by three men", according to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA).

They believe he was taken because of his role in organising strikes to demand better pay and working conditions.

Doctors are paid less than $200 (R2,900) per month in Zimbabwe - a country still struggling with hyperinflation and fuel and food shortages after decades of economic crisis under former president Robert Mugabe, who died a week ago.

Last month, under Mugombeyi, the health practitioners rejected a 76% government salary increment and declared their intent to go on strike.

According to the US Embassy in Harare, more than 50 civil society, labour and opposition leaders have been abducted since January. So far no arrests have been made, and in some instances, the state claimed the abductions were stage-managed to give Mnangagwa’s government a bad name.  

In June, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe leader Obert Masaraure, who led a strike, was abducted and tortured by men who told him to stop leading a teachers’ strike.

Zimbabwe's police agency said it was investigating the case.

Before he disappeared, Magombeyi told AFP he had received threatening calls and messages on his phone.

"The poor pay is one thing, but now we don't even feel safe in our own homes," said doctor Busi Mlambo at the protest.

"When we go to work, it's difficult as we lack the basics to perform effectively."


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