HARARE - Zimbabwe’s nurses and doctors on Monday took to the streets to protest the disappearance of the head of Zimbabwe's Hospital and Doctors Association, who was reportedly abducted by state security for leading an ongoing strike. Rights lawyers have petitioned the High Court to press President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to release the missing doctor.
Nurses and doctors gathered near the offices of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, chanting songs of protest.
“We will not listen to anyone,” they chant.Protest leaders submitted a petition to the government, following the reported abduction of Peter Gabriel Mugombeyi, acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, over the weekend.
Association official Tapiwa Mungofa spoke to his fellow workmates after delivering the petition.
“No Peter, no work. We are not going to return to work until our leader is back," he said. "What caused the industrial action is the issue of poor remuneration. That is what Peter has been fighting for. That issue hasn’t been addressed. But what has brought us here is that we want our leader safe and back. We are still incapacitated. We no longer feel safe to be at work."
Two weeks ago, the Mugombeyi-led Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association went on strike, demanding the government raise their salaries.
Obediah Moyo, Zimbabwe’s health minister, says the government is aware of the disappearance of Mugombeyi .
“We are alarmed by this. I have therefore personally engaged the state security agencies who have undertaken to deploy resources to look for Dr. Peter Mugombeyi and they are seized with the matter, with no stone left unturned," he said. "We are taking this matter seriously. I appeal to his workmates to remain calm and direct all efforts towards assisting the police with a view to a quick and successful closure of this matter.”
Abductions and disappearances of activists are common in Zimbabwe, and were especially so during the long rule of late president Robert Mugabe.
On Monday, the activist group, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, got a High Court order, demanding security forces locate Mugombeyi.
“And they have been ordered to work with the lawyers to investigate this. Whoever is holding Dr. Magombeyi has been ordered to release him immediately at the High Court. We expect the authorities to comply with the court order," said Kumbirai Mafunda, the lawyers’ spokesman.
Meanwhile, Clément Voule, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, begins a 10-day visit Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
According to the High Commission for Human Rights, Voule, a Togolese national, will be in Zimbabwe to “assess the country’s achievements and challenges in relation to the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the country.”