Health workers down tools over abducted colleague

Doctors on Monday night held a prayer vigil at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals for Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association acting president Peter Magombeyi who was abducted by suspected State security agents from his Harare home on Saturday night. The doctors were demanding for Magombeyi’s unconditional release.

BY FARAI MATIASHE

The Health Apex Council yesterday said its members were downing tools starting today until the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) acting president Peter Magombeyi, who was abducted by suspected State security agents on Saturday, was released.

This came as Health minister Obadiah Moyo briefed Cabinet on the disappearance of Magombeyi at the weekend.

“Government, once again, appeals to all those with information that can assist in establishing the whereabouts of Dr Magombeyi to alert the police as a matter of extreme urgency,” Cabinet said in a statement.

“Furthermore, government is concerned over these occurrences, which of late, tend to occur at a time when important international events are scheduled to take place. We wish to assure the nation that government is deeply concerned with this threat to the safety of its citizens and is determined to investigate the matter and bring the perpetrators to book.”

In a letter addressed to Moyo, the council said they were withdrawing their labour for their own safety.

“As the Health Apex Council, we met on September 17, 2019 and in light of prior threatening messages he (Magombeyi) and other Health Apex Council members had been receiving in the past months, it would appear that his abduction is linked to his position as a union leader,” Health Apex Council wrote in a letter signed by their members, including the Zimbabwe Health Workers’ Union, Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association and the Zimbabwe Pharmacy Technicians’ Association, ZHDA, Zimbabwe Environmental Health Technicians and the Zimbabwe Government Therapists’ Association.

“The greater sentiment among health workers is that the abduction is not only an attack against Magombeyi’s person, but, at a greater scale, is an attack against unionism relating to the interest of health workers. As a result of such public sentiment, there has been spontaneous decision by health workers to withdraw their services until Magombeyi has been returned safely.”

The Health Apex Council also suspended all Health Services Bipartite Negotiating Panel meetings until their security was guaranteed for them to continue to lobby for health worker interests so as to avoid further abductions of their members.

In a statement, the Adventist Lawyers’ Association said Magombeyi’s abduction had affected the country’s already deteriorating health situation and there was need for the government to act immediately.

Striking doctors yesterday said they had snubbed a call by Moyo to deliberate on the strike and staged a demonstration at Harare Central Hospital, calling for Magombeyi’s unconditional release.

“Yesterday (Monday) the minister (Moyo) called us to his office to discuss on our industrial action while in the comfort of his office. We did not go there because we thought he had nothing serious to talk to us. If he has something serious, he will come to talk to us here,” ZHDA acting secretary-general Tawanda Zvakada said.

“We do not want to repeat our past mistakes where people would be called to these special meetings and convinced that the grievances had been solved while in front of the media, but in reality the grievances would not have been addressed.”

Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, the Health minister said they were liaising with the military to assist patients in hospitals.

“We are concerned with service provision. We have made arrangements with the army so that they can move in. During this time, the army can give assistance,” Moyo said.

Addressing doctors, ZHDA acting treasurer-general Tapiwa Mungofa said they had submitted a letter to the hospital’s chief executive officer Tinashe Dobbie, threatening to shut down Parirenyatwa Hospital.

Human rights lawyer Doug Coltart said they will continue pushing the government using legal means until Magombeyi is found.

Coltart on Monday said the High Court had ordered Magombeyi’s abductors to release him or to bring him to court within 48 hours.

But Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo accused a third hand for Magombeyi’s abduction to tarnish President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime.

“It is still in our minds that towards Sadc summit in Tanzania last month, the country was grappled with numerous abductions of our citizens by people whose aim can only believe was to tarnish the image of the country regionally, continental and internationally. We have no doubt that the late abduction of Magombeyi was meant to coincide with the visit to Zimbabwe by United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” he said.

Moyo said the special rapporteur Clement Nyaletsossi Voule would be in the country until September 27 on a fact-finding mission and the 74th session of the United Nations general assembly had kicked off yesterday in New York.

“These two events provide an opportune time for the government’s distractors to soil the country’s image. As the government continues to spruce up the country’s image, it is unthinkable that any of its security agents would be involved in such blatant criminal acts,” Moyo said.

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