No Peter No Work; Doctors in Zimbabwe continue strike

The stand off between the government of Zimbabwe and doctors continues as many lives remain at risk what with doctors on strike.

The nurses and doctors in the troubled southern African nation took 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.

Human Rights lawyers have also joined in to pressure the government by petitioning the High Court to press President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to release the missing doctor.

This is not the first time that an activist or union leader has disappeared in Zimbabwe and it is indeed a cause for concern not so long ago Itai Dzamara who was one of the most outspoken critics of the Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe, disappeared a in similar way. Three years later, his loved ones are still waiting for answers.

On Monday nurses and doctors in Harare gathered near the offices of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, chanting songs of protest.“We will not listen to anyone,” they chanted. The Doctors and protest leaders submitted a petition to the government, demanding the immediate release of the abducted Peter Gabriel Mugombeyi, acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, over the weekend.

It is suspected that the union leader was snatched away by security forces for organising a slew of strikes.Peter 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.

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Doctors are paid less than $200 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 on the 6th of September. “No Peter, no work,” is still the war cry 5 days on since Magombeyi’s disappearance. “This demo is about our president, getting him back won’t get us back to work,” said ZHDA’s vice-president Masimba Ndoro, adding that the “pay issue” also needed “to be addressed”.

Slogans on pieces of cardboard said “I am Peter, I’m your brother, bring me back” and “He is not a threat to national security”.

Government spokesman Nick Mangwana said the administration had “no reason” to abduct citizens.Government failing to protect citizens “Threats to the security of persons and acts of terror are ultimately threats to the security of the State. There is no rhyme nor reason for the State to undermine itself,” Mangwana tweeted on Monday.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa condemned Magombeyi’s disappearance saying the government had failed to “protect its citizens”.

“We can’t build a united nation when our doctors are underpaid & abducted when they raise legitimate concerns,” Chamisa tweeted. “This defines a banana republic!”

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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Zimbabwe’s public health system suffered years of neglect under Mugabe. Doctors complain about lack of supplies and bad working conditions. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, elected after Mugabe was ousted in 2017, has been under pressure to deliver on promises of more investment and jobs.

A measure to double fuel prices this year sparked nationwide protests, prompting a crackdown on the opposition and clashes in which 17 people were killed when soldiers opened fire.