Media Statement: SALC condemns the abduction and enforced disappearance of Dr Peter Magombeyi, President of Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA)

Salc : Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh

SALC calls on the Zimbabwean government to urgently determine the whereabouts of Dr Magombeyi and to ensure his safety.

Zimbabwean doctors yesterday staged a walkout in protest over this weekend’s alleged abduction of Dr Magombeyi, the acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctor’s Union who has led strikes over poor pay and working conditions. Hundreds marched in Harare to demand that the authorities take action over the latest abduction in what has been a series of abductions of government critics. Activists fear Magombeyi was kidnapped by state agents for his role in leading the nationwide doctors’ strike which is demanding an increase in wages for medical staff. Government officials said they would investigate Magombeyi’s disappearance but denied responsibility.

On 14th September after 10pm, three unarmed men allegedly abducted Dr. Peter Magombeyi from his house in Budiriro high density suburb. Shortly after his abduction Dr. Magombeyi sent a message alerting his colleagues that he had been taken from his house by three armed men. He also forwarded a threatening message allegedly sent by a member of the Central Intelligence Organisation in which he was warned to stop his activities and that failure to do so would result in his disappearance.

On 15th September several organisations, including ZHDA, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union issued statements condemning the abduction. Late on the 15th September the Minister of Home Health, Dr Obadiah Moyo issued a statement condemning the abduction and assuring the doctors that the matter would be taken up with the police. The police issued a statement acknowledging receiving a report from ZDHA about the abduction. The police said investigations have started and they are taking the matter seriously even though they have added that they suspect that a “third force” is involved in the abduction.

The abduction of Magombeyi occurred after doctors who had been on strike rejected the government’s salary increase on 13 September and vowed to continue with their protest. The abduction of Magombyi is a violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The state must ensure that his abduction and disappearance is investigated and the perpetrators must be held accountable.

A habeas corpus hearing was held on the 16th September requesting for Magombeyi to be brought before court. Justice Mushore who presided over the urgent application ordered whoever is holding Magombeyi to release him or bring him to court within    48 hours and for Home Affairs and State Security Ministers to determine his whereabouts, have investigators search for him at all places in Zimbabwe and to report on the progress of these investigations. A ‘habeas corpus application’ is made in terms of s50 (7)(a) of the Constitution demanding that a person who’s been illegally detained be produced before the court within a set time. It’s unconstitutional to detain a person without good cause.

UN Special Rapporteur Clément Nyaletsossi Voule will visit Zimbabwe from 17 to 27 September 2019 to assess the country’s achievements and challenges in relation to the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the country. This is the first official visit by an independent human rights expert, appointed by the Human Rights Council, to Zimbabwe. The Special Rapporteur, who is visiting at the invitation of the Government, will meet with government officials, representatives of the judiciary, legislature, independent institutions and civil society. He will also meet members of the international community including UN officials.

We hope that this high level visit will encourage the Zimbabwean government to be more transparent and accountable regarding the criminality which is being unleashed upon its critics.

Johannesburg, 17 September 2019