Police on Tuesday prevented a doctors’ union leader, whose kidnapping sparked wide protests, from going to neighbouring South Africa for medical treatment despite a court order.
On September 8, Peter Magombeyi, a doctor, claimed he was receiving “death threats”. Six days later he disappeared. His last WhatsApp message said: “I have been kidnapped by three men.”
Magombeyi was found on Thursday night, 35 kilometres from the capital Harare. He was alive and deeply traumatised.
On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of police officers went to the Avenues Clinic in Harare where Magombeyi was undergoing treatment to prevent him from leaving for South Africa, one of his lawyers said.
Earlier in the day, the Harare High Court had ruled that Magombeyi should be allowed to go to South Africa for treatment.
“The order stops the police from blocking Dr Magombeyi from travelling to SA to seek medical attention,” his lawyer Alec Muchadehama said.
Magombeyi’s doctors said the 26-year-old had “significant neurocognitive and psychological dysfunction” and required “further functional brain imaging and toxicological evaluation” services which are not available in Zimbabwe.
The information ministry late Tuesday said the police intervention was linked to a police decision to appeal the court ruling.
“Police filed an urgent chamber application seeking the correction of an earlier order of court interdicting them from preventing the release of Dr Magombeyi to proceed to SA for medical care. The matter has been set down on an urgent basis,” it said in a tweet.
Police chief Commissioner General Godwin Matanga, in the court application, said a lawyer representing him who consented to the earlier court order had “no proper instruction to consent to such an order being granted.”
Prominent lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu told ZimLive the police actions were an “outrageous disobedience” of a court order.
“They have been served with an order by consent and should have obeyed it by now. Their application is contemptuous and has no legal basis,” Mpofu said.
Hundreds of health workers took to the streets to demand the authorities investigate Magombeyi’s disappearance.
They accused security forces of kidnapping their colleague for heading the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, which had called work stoppages to demand pay rises.
Zimbabwe’s once-vaunted public health system has deteriorated after years of neglect and doctors complain about lack of supplies and poor conditions.
Striking doctors are demanding salary increases in a country struggling with high inflation and shortages of fuel, medicines, water and electricity. – AFP/Staff Reporter