Peter Magombeyi, who was overseeing a doctors’ strike, turns up confused and in pain
A doctor and labour activist in Zimbabwe whose reported abduction led to widespread protests by medical staff has been found, disorientated and in pain but alive.
Peter Magombeyi, the acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), disappeared at about 10pm (2100 BST) local time on Saturday. The union leader sent a short message to colleagues saying he believed he was being kidnapped before all communications ceased.
Magombeyi, who is leading a nationwide doctors’ strike to force President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to raise wages for medical staff, had previously received warnings, which he believed came from security services, to stop his activism.
The exact circumstances of his release are unclear, with Magombeyi unable to give interviewers coherent details of what happened to him. He was found in Nyabira, about 18 miles (30km) from the capital, Harare.
Interviewed by a reporter from Voice of America, Magombeyi sounded confused. He said he had no obvious physical injuries, but some pain. He told VOA he remembered “being in a basement of some sort, being electrocuted at some point”.
Hundreds of Zimbabwean doctors protested in central Harare during the week over the disappearance of Magombeyi. The ZHDA represents mainly junior doctors at public hospitals.
Doctors are among millions of public employees in Zimbabwe who have suffered from soaring inflation and a shortage of currency and basic commodities. The health sector faces a severe lack of medicine and funds.
Dozens of pro-democracy campaigners, trade unionists and opposition officials have been abducted by suspected state security services since contested elections last year. Most have been released after several hours, though many have been badly beaten, stripped, threatened or otherwise mistreated.
Government ministers and senior officials have suggested the apparent abduction of Magombeyi had been carried out by a “third force” to destabilise the country.
Nick Mangwana, the information secretary, described Magombeyi as a “liar” after his release.
Allegations that unidentified third parties were undermining authorities were a staple under Robert Mugabe, the previous president, who died this month in a clinic in Singapore.
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years before being forced to resign after a military takeover in November 2017. He was succeeded by Mnangagwa, who promised to bring foreign investment to avert a deepening economic crisis, reform government and rehabilitate the former British colony’s international image.
Zimbabwe is crippled by massive debts incurred during Mugabe’s rule and needs a multibillion-dollar bailout to prevent economic collapse. However, continuing repression and a lack of tangible political reform means there is little chance of international institutions offering major aid packages.