It’s been four days since the leader of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Dr. Peter Magombeyi, went missing. According to a WhatsApp message he managed to send, three unidentified men abducted him from his home in the Budiriro neighborhood of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Since then, no one has heard from him.
Magombeyi, a government employee, had organized a series of protests to demand better salaries for government doctors, ZDHA said. Prior to his abduction, he had received a text message from a local mobile number threating him with disappearance. Zimbabwe’s health minister, Obadiah Moyo, has since confirmed that Magombeyi was missingand claimed to have activated all state security ministries to secure his whereabouts.
Meanwhile, however, a spokesperson for President Emmerson Mnangagwa dismissed the abductionas “a characteristic propaganda stunt by the opposition and its supporters.”
Magombeyi’s abduction is not an isolated case. Recent months have seen an alarming spike in abductions and tortureof critics of the government and the political opposition. Since the beginning of the year, the authorities have arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted several peaceful activists on baseless charges.
Four weeks ago, six masked gunmen abducted and beat Zimbabwean comedian and government critic Samantha Kureya(known as “Gonyeti”). Kureya was forced to drink raw sewage before she was released. Another activist, Tatenda Mombeyara, was abductedby eight masked gunmen wielding AK-47 assault rifles. The abductors accused him of organizing anti-government protests and beat him badly, breaking his left leg and a finger, before abandoning him.
Human Rights Watch has been able to confirm more than 50 cases of abductions of activists and other critics of the government this year. So far, none of the perpetrators have been arrested.
The abductions and the failure to investigate belie President Mnangagwa’s repeated promises to usher in a “new dispensation” that embraces democracy and human rights.
Zimbabwe authorities should take all necessary steps to promptly locate Magombeyi and return him to his family. They should thoroughly investigate this and other abductions and ensure that those responsible are appropriately brought to justice.