IT’S not only safe, but wise and astute to comment on an accomplished fact — such as last week’s Zaka East parliamentary by-election result — than to prematurely and vehemently accept or reject that Dr Peter Magombeyi was abducted when the available evidence released into the public domain so far does not point either way conclusively — and may never.
What is observable, however, is that those who claim the bombing at White City Stadium in Bulawayo during a Zanu PF election rally last year was stage-managed get extremely angry when others say the abduction of the doctor was similarly engineered.
Well, this is not the time for puerile and infantile points-scoring typical of social media comments, but honest and frank introspection. At this inconclusive stage, this comment from Maxwell Saungweme is certainly appropriate: “It is difficult for me to see how both were stage-managed. To what end?”
That’s a most reasoned and objective argument. Indeed, let’s be open-minded about it, and if proved wrong, it won’t be embarrassingly so unlike with some embedded commentators who are out there to merely take political sides.
However, the doctors, in acting in solidarity with their colleague, did not have to completely abandon patients to die.
That was most irresponsible of them as a group and as individuals. As learned people, they could have staged a measured protest while making their point.
According to Prensa Latina, Zimbabwean public hospitals returned to normal this week, but at what cost? How many people died as a result of the doctors’ protests?
Like economic sanctions that hurt ordinary Zimbabweans instead of those few individuals they are ostensibly targeted at, the doctors’ boycott hurt the long-suffering ordinary person instead of State actors that the doctors accused of allegedly abducting their colleague. Did that picture of former First Lady Grace
Mugabe dining sumptuously with South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema inside the five-star Blue Roof interior this week depict the Mugabe family as groaning under sanctions?
After Magombeyi surfaced, he was not taken to a public hospital where his colleagues are on strike, but to a private hospital where the doctors are not on strike. Doctors should put themselves in the shoes of ordinary Zimbabweans — it’s there in their Hippocratic oath..
But one thing that has been decided conclusively is the Zaka East by-election.
Pro-MDC academic Pedzisai Ruhanya posted: “Was observing MDC top leadership campaign strategies in the Zaka East by-election. Very few standing committee members went there. Most were busy taking their new delivered top-of-the-range vehicles in Harare. Well done, Zanu PF, for defeating these people!”
Even pro-MDC commentators are coming round to accept, somewhat begrudgingly or reluctantly, that they need look no further than themselves. Indeed, they should look in the mirror instead of pointing fingers at Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba.
Or force the country to grind to a standstill over non-existent legitimacy issues.These mounting losses lay bare the hollowness of questioning the legitimacy of the current government and accusations of vote-rigging.
This led Ruhanya to this admission: “Zanu PF did not rig the Zaka East by-election. It won squarely for reasons the MDC especially know best. Complacency and greed will make MDC pay heavily in 2023. The rural election stratagem, which is Zanu PF’s centre of gravity, is not there. Economic crisis alone won’t help!”
Indeed, it’s about getting to the centre of gravity of rural areas, being on the pulse of rural voters, not the MDC’s elite cohesion with the cash-splashing donor community including non-governmental organisations, civil society and Western embassies.
People in the habit of being patronising and contemptuous about rural voters, saying they are manipulated by Zanu PF, ought to be reminded that Zimbabwe is a democracy, not a plutocracy — and their own Ruhanya has told them the same accomplished fact. So why always threaten demonstrations when you lose?
Back to the doctors, yes, they had to demonstrate, but with restraint and responsibility. This is one of the worst lose-lose cases. And it was bound to be so as soon as political activists jumped in on the act.
One of them, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, rightly pointed out the human rights of their colleague, but did not mention the human rights of the sick as if patients are lesser beings.
Not to say it’s going to be that way, but if it turns out that there was no abduction after all, how will they look?
Educated people should show restraint in registering their grievances, especially doctors because sick people should not become collateral damage. Doctors should be proportionate, not as precipitate as striking boarding school boys driven by youthful over-enthusiasm who go on rampage as if they are under mass hysteria.
Partial strike, yes; not total strike. Not total shutdown of hospitals because people don’t apply in advance or volunteer to be ill, but suddenly find themselves needing hospitalisation — which Magombeyi himself now requires and is getting. Whatever doctors do, should be marked by due proportion. That should mark out doctors. They should have tempered their anger with human compassion.
Let’s push for reason and restraint.
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org