Zimbabwe’s Information Secretary, Nick Mangwana, has apologized for labeling some doctors “medical assassins”, which he alleged were killing politicians in hospitals.
Responding to William Mzambezi’s tweet following a backlash over his claims, Mangwana said, “I expressed my personal view on an issue a Dr had tweeted on. I had no intention to offend any doctor or call any of them names. Since it has caused such an offence, I withdraw it and apologize for any offence caused. I just hope we can move and not be distracted from work at hand.”
But some are already calling for his arrest for peddling what many say are falsehoods about the presence of professional killers in Zimbabwe’s hospitals.
Mangwana was unavailable for comment as he did not respond to calls on his mobile phone.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) noted with “extreme concern some social media statements issued by a government representative labelling some medical practitioners as medical assassins.
“It is unfortunate and regrettable that we have high ranking government officials who are making such bold statements on unverified and unfounded allegations. ZLHR finds this allegation absurd and unwarranted at a critical time when all medical practitioners and ordinary citizens are giving their all in seeking to curb the spread of coronavirus which is claiming the precious lives of people.”
The ZLHR said such statements are also “very dangerous and may lead to certain sections of society shunning medical treatment should they be infected by COVID-19.
“It is shocking that while medical practitioners are being celebrated the world over during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic as they battle to save people from one of the most infectious viral attacks in recent years, Zimbabwean authorities seem to frown at their valuable efforts and contributions.”
The ZLHR further said it is unfortunate that this is not the first time that medical practitioners have been accused by government officials of committing such misdemeanours as in recent years and months authorities have summarily dismissed doctors and nurses from employment after accusing them of being influenced by political motives in protesting against poor remuneration and working conditions.
“Of note is that our medical practitioners are risking their lives by caring for patients suffering from COVID-19 without provision of adequate personal protective equipment and other safety measures in their workplaces and this has not deterred them to sacrifice a lot for people.
ZLHR is worried that government is defying observations and recommendations by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which in Resolution 443 on the Human Rights Situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe following its meeting during the 66th Ordinary session released in August 2020 expressed concern on medical practitioners, who were arrested for demanding improved salaries and working conditions.”
The ZLHR noted that the ACHPR also urged the government to protect the rights of medical practitioners and address their concerns for better wages and working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“ZLHR reminds government of the need to guarantee protection of the rights of medical practitioners and demands that authorities address their concerns in line with the Resolution of the ACHPR. ZLHR urges government to treat and protect the country’s remaining healthcare personnel with dignity as this is our most valuable assets on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus.”
Responding to a tweet by a person that has since deleted his Twitter account, who claimed that there are some doctors said to be killing some political players, Mangwana noted that people are talking about such issues.
“This is what’s leading to the unfortunate conspiracy theory that there are certain political players being eliminated in hospitals by political activists hiding behind medical qualifications. In fact not just political players but medical assassins.”
He was immediately rebuked by large numbers of people with some urging him to step down.