Wed, 16 Oct 2019

Hundreds of Zimbabwean doctors and nurses marched in Harare on Monday to protest the suspected kidnapping of a doctors' union leader by security forces for organising a slew of strikes.

Peter Magombeyi has been missing since Saturday night, after sending a WhatsApp message saying he had been "kidnapped by three men", according to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA).

They believe he was taken because of his role in organising strikes to demand better pay and working conditions.

Doctors are paid less than $200 per month in Zimbabwe - a country still struggling with hyperinflation and fuel and food shortages after decades of economic crisis under former president Robert Mugabe, who died a week ago.

The protesters chanted "No Peter, no work," in a second day of protests since Magombeyi's disappearance.

"This demo is about our president, getting him back won't get us back to work," said ZHDA's vice-president Masimba Ndoro, adding that the "pay issue" also needed "to be addressed".

Slogans on pieces of cardboard said "I am Peter, I'm your brother, bring me back" and "He is not a threat to national security".

Government spokesman Nick Mangwana said the administration had "no reason" to abduct citizens.

'We don't even feel safe'

"Threats to the security of persons and acts of terror are ultimately threats to the security of the State. There is no rhyme nor reason for the State to undermine itself," Mangwana tweeted on Monday.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa condemned Magombeyi's disappearance saying the government had failed to "protect its citizens".

"We can't build a united nation when our doctors are underpaid & abducted when they raise legitimate concerns," Chamisa tweeted. "This defines a banana republic!"

Zimbabwe's police agency said it was investigating the case.

Before he disappeared, Magombeyi told AFP he had received threatening calls and messages on his phone.

"The poor pay is one thing, but now we don't even feel safe in our own homes," said doctor Busi Mlambo at the protest.

"When we go to work, it's difficult as we lack the basics to perform effectively."

Zimbabwe's public health system suffered years of neglect under Mugabe. Doctors complain about lack of supplies and bad working conditions.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, elected after Mugabe was ousted in 2017, has been under pressure to deliver on promises of more investment and jobs.

A measure to double fuel prices this year sparked nationwide protests, prompting a crackdown on the opposition and clashes in which 17 people were killed when soldiers opened fire.

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