A court ruling in favor of Zimbabwe’s striking doctors and other healthcare workers, cleared the way for them to march to parliament, Thursday, to protest the disappearance of their colleague and president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Peter Magombeyi, and also press for pay increases.
Police on Wednesday banned the doctors, who have been on strike since early September, from marching to parliament to register their complaint.
Holding placards and singing loudly, the doctors, a combination of junior, middle and senior level doctors, marched from Parirenyatwa Hospital, Zimbabwe’s largest medical center located in Harare, to Africa Unity Square.
Dr. Tawanda Zvakada, acting ZHDA secretary, said the petition that they handed to parliament, expressed their concerns about Magombeyi’s whereabouts and wellbeing since his disappearance late Saturday, as well as the poor condition of hospitals and salaries.
“We were able to leave the letter we had written as doctors, our petition, articulating our concerns which included that our president Dr. Peter Gabriel Magombeyi is missing and we don’t know his whereabouts. Four days have passed without us knowing where he is, we are getting worried,” said Zvakada.
He further said, “The state of the hospitals we work in are in bad condition, because we don’t have enough of the necessary supplies … We also included the fact that the salary is not enough to enable us to get to work.”
One of the marching doctors who wanted to be identified only as Peter, said Magombeyi, who was leading the call for better pay for doctors, has not committed any crime, and therefore should not be subjected to any bad treatment as a result, including being kidnapped.
“There is nothing wrong that Peter did,” said Peter. “All he was asking for was that workers, the doctors, get a salary increase commensurate with the changing economy.”
Peter said the doctors not only demand that Magombeyi is returned, but that he is returned unharmed.
“What really motivated us to come out today, is that we want Dr. Peter to come back. Not only do we want him to be returned, we want Dr. Peter back alive, in good health, without being manhandled. When Dr. Peter returns, then we’ll discuss other matters,” said Peter.
Another doctor in the crowd, who did not want to be named, said Magombeyi’s disappearance was a disgrace to the country.
“He must come back. There is no reason why they took Peter, it doesn’t make any sense” said the unnamed doctor. “It is embarrassing, it’s unbelievable that the government would do something like that. So, Peter must be brought back without any condition. No Peter, no work,” he declared.
While government has denied any involvement with Magombeyi’s disappearance, many remain suspicious of the government.
The absence of the doctors from the country’s main public hospitals have placed the lives of many patients, some in critical condition, in danger. The doctors, however, say while they sympathize and understand the impact of their actions, they will only return to work when Magombeyi returns.
The government, which has been ordered to investigate Magombeyi’s disappearance, says it is doing all it can to find the missing doctor, and attribute his disappearance to a third force, who it says wants to taint the government’s image.