Zimbabwe’s Missing Doctor Alive, But Strike Continues

HARARE – A leader of the ongoing doctors strike in Zimbabwe has re-emerged, nearly a week after his reported abduction, and striking medical staff have renewed their push for higher salaries to cope with Zimbabwe’s soaring inflation.

Late Thursday, Peter Gabriel Mugombeyi, acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, confirmed to VOA’s Zimbabwe service that his abductors had released him.

He said he had some generalized body pain which he could not explain. He added that he could not recall much of what happened during his detention.

In a phone call with VOA, Mugombeyi said he did not know what happened to him. He added, “I stand to be corrected, I might be having retrogressive amnesia. … failing to recall what happened in the past.”

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights confirmed that Mugombeyi had been released and was being attended by doctors at a medical facility in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s ministry of information released a statement Friday on social media, saying, “Police efforts to debrief Dr. Magombeyi and advance investigations are not making a headway so far as he prefers not to speak to the authorities.”

Police refused to comment further on the issue.

Fortune Nyamande, the spokesman from the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said the organization was happy that Magombeyi was freed.

“However,” Nyamande added, “we are not happy with this spate of abductions that are happening in our country. We are not happy that citizens and human rights activists continue to be persecuted day and night because of their work in trying to defend and protect the rights of Zimbabweans. We urge the state to uphold the constitution which speaks about the security of persons in Zimbabwe and which speaks about the right to health. No one should be subjected to torture or any form of degrading treatment.”

Abductions and disappearances of activists are common in Zimbabwe especially under Robert Mugabe’s reign, which ended in 2017 after he was deposed by the army and succeeded by his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Magombeyi’s colleagues say the outspoken doctor was abducted for calling a strike on Sept. 3 to push Mnangagwa’s government to raise doctors’ salaries, which currently amount to less than $200 per month.

While Mugombeyi was missing, health workers adopted a “No Peter, no work” slogan.

On Friday, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association released a new statement, saying “No money, no work.” They added that they would only call off their strike when their salaries were increased.

Source: Voice of America