The Zimbabwean doctor whose disappearance Saturday, sparked off a wave of doctors' strikes across the country, has reappeared, alive. However, the doctor's recollection of his disappearance, is vague.
Speaking on VOA Zimbabwe Service's Livetalk program, Thursday, a disoriented sounding Dr. Peter Magombeyi, the acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors' Association, confirmed he was the one on the other end of the phone.
"I honestly don't know how to truly identify myself, but I am Dr. Peter Magombeyi, I work at Harare Hospital."
The doctor, who had been spearheading calls for an increase of doctors' salaries when he disappeared, said he could not remember what exactly happened to him or how he ended up where he was - an area called Nyabira, about 21-miles from Harare.
"That part I'm just so vague about, I need time to recall."
Struggling to speak, Magombeyi said he didn't have any obvious signs of physical injury, but only generalized pain. He said his last recollection before being taken by unnamed people, were memories of being electrocuted.
"I remember being in a basement of some sort, being electrocuted at some point, that is what I vividly remember. I, I just don't remember."
Missing since Saturday, Magombeyi said a lot of what happened during that time, including if he had anything to eat or if he was blindfolded, was too vague for him to articulate."I barely remember anything. I think I am having retrograde amnesia, I just don't know."
Zimbabwe's government and police have denied involvement in Magombeyi's disappearance but said they were doing all they could to find the doctor. The government also indicated a third force could be involved in the disappearance to taint its image.
Responding to the police allegation, and also Twitter posts alluding to the same accusations, Magombeyi said he had no answer.
"I need time to think about it, I don't know."
Zimbabwe doctors, some of who were already on strike since early September demanding pay increments, intensified their strike following Magombeyi's disappearance and vowed not to return to work until he was found.
At the time of the interview, Magombeyi said he was waiting for the police and his colleagues to pick him up. One of his colleagues told VOA Studio 7 that he was picked up by the police who took him to Central Police Station in Harare.
Lawyers representing the doctor said police denied them permission to have access to their client. Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi refused to comment, saying he will issue a statement.
How He Was Found
A doctor and labour activist in Zimbabwe whose reported abduction led to widespread protests by medical staff has been found, disoriented 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 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.