A wave of abductions, torture and arrests in Zimbabwe are targeting opposition activists and other government critics, the latest being Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association President Peter Magombeyi who was dragged from his Harare home by three masked men on Saturday night.
Magombeyi’s colleagues are convinced that state security agents seized the outspoken medical doctor in an attempt to break a doctors’ strike which began on September 3.
Magombeyi’s abduction is not an isolated case the country has heard of in recent months. Human Rights Watch has confirmed over 50 cases of abductions of activists and other critics of the government this year. So far, none of the perpetrators has been arrested.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum chairperson Jestina Mukoko said there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the state was behind these abductions and tortures of dissenting voices, as they coincided with calls by the main opposition party and government workers to stage countrywide protests against the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government — which has come under unprecedented pressure from the international community to stop the human rights violations, — however, accused the opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change of staging-managing abductions and the torture of activists to soil the image of the country.
Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the government was not involved in the abductions of the opposition party and civil society activists.
“Why would we abduct people? To tarnish our own image? It is the MDC who are faking abductions, they are doing it so that they can remain relevant. They have realised that they were becoming irrelevant. After the demonstration in January, all the other demonstrations that they tried have failed,” he said.
Government spokesperson, Nick Mangwana, also dismissed the abduction as “a characteristic propaganda stunt by the opposition and its supporters,” at the same time claiming that people were being paid to stage the abductions.
“Actors are being paid to come up with performances and not so true accusations of abductions. The opposition has said it’s changing tactics from protests. It’s within logical reason to believe that they have moved to dirty tactics and dark arts supported by the former establishment people,” claimed Mangwana.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo blamed the so-called “third force” for the slew of abductions and torture of opposition activists and other government critics. He also alleges that the abductions were stage-managed to tarnish the image of the country ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York where the issue of human rights is likely to take centre stage. President Mnangagwa is set to attend the summit where Zimbabwe is expected to present a report on human rights.
But churches and the civic societies have reminded the nation that the ruling party, ZANU PF, has indeed a history of perpetrating violence against human rights activists and opposition leaders which makes it the prime suspect.
Addressing the press on Thursday afternoon in Harare, Civil Society and Churches Joint Forum (CSCJF) National Coordinator, Ms Abigale Mupambi said it was the state’s responsibility to make sure that citizens are safe as the abductions and the failure to investigate belie the government’s repeated promises to usher in a “new dispensation” that embraces democracy and human rights.
“The State has a responsibility to make sure that citizens are safe, safe from these abductions,” said Mupambi.
“As we may all agree that abduction is & has been in the DNA of ZANU PF, remember ZANU split into G40 & Lacoste, effectively sharing the same DNA. Hence, we can’t rule out the hand of G40 in these abductions. The State must protect its citizens,” she added.
Mupambi went on to urge citizens to be abstemious if the truth behind these nobbling is to be reckoned.
“We need to be sober and objective if we are to get accurate information of the true nature of these abductions. These abductions may be the introduction of terrorism in Zimbabwe. Let’s consider all the possibilities.
Abductions exist in Nigeria, but it’s Boko haram, not the State. Everyone must be treated as a suspect until proven guilty. Let’s zero in and identify individuals who are responsible for the abductions because identifying particular individuals is easier and more practical than accusing institutions.”
CSCJF also said that it was working with other civil society organisations to find common ground and take a collective effort in tackling the abductions crisis.
Meanwhile, the missing medical doctor Peter Magombeyi was ultimately found yesterday in Nyabira, about 35 kilometres north-west of Harare.
“I am safe and sound. I don’t have much to say, but I am in Nyabira, waiting for my colleagues to come and pick me up,” he was quoted by the Herald, adding that he had a hazy recollection of what transpired since his alleged abduction.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they were still to establish circumstances surrounding his disappearance.
Dr Magombeyi had no physical injuries and was due to be examined by health authorities to ascertain any injuries he may have suffered during the ordeal.
Dr Mthabisi Bhebhe, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, which Magombeyi leads, said he was not in doubt that Magombeyi did not voluntarily end up in Nyabira.
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