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FILE: MDC supporters protesting in Harare.

Police on Monday raided the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa in the capital, Harare, following the discovery of helmets of uniformed forces in a nearby building.

The police also searched all vehicles making their way into the city’s central business district amid serious security concerns by local people and arrested some MDC activists in connection with the helmets.

Luke Tamborinyoka, head of the MDC communications department, said they were forced to shut down all operations as police “camped” at the party headquarters “without any apparent reason”.

In a statement, the party said, “Armed police have laid siege at the MDC headquarters starting early this morning in what is clearly a choreographed attempt to clamp-down on the peaceful people’s movement. First was a story in the Zanu PF-controlled media in which the police said they had discovered anti-riot and municipal helmets at Robinson House in Harare which they are surprisingly trying to link to the party headquarters.

“For the record, the MDC is a peaceful and non-violent political movement with a Constitution that clearly stipulates the peaceful manner in which the party will always prosecute its democratic struggle.

“A few months ago, the police purported to have discovered catapults and stones again near the MDC headquarters. Today’s attempt is the second attempt in the past few months to link the people’s peaceful movement with a primitive, barbaric and Stone Age political script that involves stones, bricks and catapults. The illegitimate regime is getting desperate and all these are frantic attempts to ban and proscribe legitimate political activity; just as they have done with peaceful demonstrations.”

Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said their investigations led to the discovery of over police helmets.

He said the discovery of the helmets resulted in the heavy police presence in most parts of the capital city where “they are maintain law and order as prescribed in Zimbabwe’s constitution.”

The MDC noted that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has pressed the panic button due to the high cost of living in Zimbabwe. According to some economists, the current hyperinflation in the country may spark peaceful demonstrations.

“Available evidence points to the fact that in the past 12 months, it is the Mnangagwa regime that has killed people, both in August 2018 and in January 2019 and the perpetrators have not been brought to book. It is this regime that poses a threat to the safety of citizens and any attempt to implicate the MDC will not wash.

“Zimbabweans know that it is Zanu PF that is violent and it is Zanu PF that has a blood-soaked history. Instead of clamping down on prices, a deteriorating economy, unemployment and power and fuel shortages, the ED regime has thought it prudent to clamp down on a legitimate political party going about its business.”

The MDC still maintains that Mnangagwa was not legitimately-elected by Zimbabweans in 2018. But Zanu PF says the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections were free and fair.

Striking doctors defy government ultimatum to return to work.

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Government-employed doctors on Monday ignored a labor court ultimatum to return to work, saying they remain incapacitated by poor wages and inadequate health facilities.

Protesting doctors in Harare ...
Protesting doctors in Harare ...

Justices Lawrence Murasi and Rodgers Manyangadze on Friday ordered doctors to report for duty within 48 hours. They declared the strike illegal and referred the dispute between the doctors and the government to arbitration within 14 days.

Junior doctors have not reported for duty since Sept. 3, saying they no longer can support themselves on salaries of less than $200 a month as Zimbabwe’s economic crisis drags on. Senior doctors joined the strike last Thursday, with both groups also complaining that health facilities lack the equipment and medical supplies needed to treat patients.

Dr. Tawanda Zvakada – acting secretary general of Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, which initiated the strike – told VOA’s Zimbabwe Service that the group’s lawyers were preparing to challenge the ruling. It could be appealed to Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court.

Striking doctors protesting in the capital, Harare, October 7, 2019
Striking doctors protesting in the capital, Harare, October 7, 2019

Masimba Dean Ndoro, the association’s acting vice president, says physicians still lack resources to report for work.

“Doctors simply do not have the means to attend to their duties,” Ndoro said.

The strike has crippled the health sector, exacerbating suffering for the sick and injured in the country of southern African country of 14 million. While private doctors have not joined the strike, their higher fees put them out of reach for most people.

The government’s health minister, Obadiah Moyo, was not available for comment. Dr. Paulinus Sikosana, who chairs the Health Services Board, has threatened to withhold pay from striking doctors.

In early October, doctors rejected the government’s offer of a 60% increase. It would have been paid in the country’s devalued currency, not the U.S. dollars that the doctors claim their contracts require.

NEGOTIATION URGED

Davies Ndumiso Sibanda, an independent labor expert based in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo, called for the government and doctors to resolve the case amicably without involving the courts.

“With labor disputes, it doesn't matter who wins it,” said Sibanda, citing his 28 years of legal experience. He noted that in the most recent court decision, “the employer has won, but it still doesn't have the doctors in the hospital — which is a clear sign that this is a problem not capable of being resolved through litigation.”

Instead, Sibanda urged the parties to systematically address each grievance – such as wages and the cost of living, and shortcomings in medical supplies – and set a timetable for resolving them.

If the case went to the Supreme Court, it could drag on, Sibanda warned, and “what it means is people are continuing to die in hospitals.”

MAGOMBEYI ‘RECOVERING WELL’

Meanwhile, Zvakada of the doctors association told VOA that one of the strike’s early leaders is “recovering well” in South Africa.

Dr. Peter Magombeyi allegedly had been abducted from his home September 14 and was found outside of Harare several days later. Zimbabwe police later temporarily blocked Magombeyi’s departure from a private clinic in the capital, where he was being treated for undisclosed ailments, but relented after a high court’s order. Magombeyi was transferred to a clinic in South Africa and now is at a safe house, Zvakada said.

Some civil society groups have alleged that Magombeyi was abducted by state security agents, but Zimbabwe’s government has denied any involvement.

Rutendo Mawere reported from Harare, Zimbabwe; Gibbs Dube of VOA’s Zimbabwe Service and James Butty of VOA’s English to Africa Service reported from Washington.

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