Zimbabwean police on Tuesday prevented a doctors’ union leader, whose suspected 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 3 men.”
Magombeyi was found on Thursday night, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the capital Harare. He was alive and deeply traumatised.
On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of policemen went to the Harare hospital where Magombeyi was undergoing treatment to prevent him from leaving for South Africa, one of his lawyers said.
Earlier in the day, a Harare 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 Muchadehamawho told AFP.
“More ZRP anti-riot reinforcements have arrived where police officers are preventing @DMagombeyi from leaving for the airport to board an evening flight to South Africa to access specialist medical treatment,” the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights group tweeted.
The doctor himself tweeted: “When Peter was in prison, prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him (Acts 12). THANK YOU EVERYONE. I am humbled! Love u.”
The information ministry late on Tuesday said the 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.
Hundreds of medics had taken 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 were demanding salary increases in a country still struggling with high inflation and fuel and food shortages after decades of economic crisis under former president Robert Mugabe, who died on Setember 6.