Chiweshe nurses back in court over Howard Hospital saga

A group of nurses from the Salvation Army run Howard Hospital in Chiweshe were back in court on Monday, over the ongoing saga surrounding the dismissal of a top doctor there.

The eight nurses stand accused with 12 other Chiweshe residents, who were all arrested after a protest against the forced removal of the Hospital’s chief doctor, Paul Thistle, in August. The protest turned violent with angry residents turning over a car and demanding that Dr. Thistle be allowed to remain. Riot police were called in to stop the demonstration and arrested 12 residents. Eight nurses were also taken into custody and questioned for allegedly inciting violence.

The trial against the 20 accused was meant to start earlier this month, but the case was postponed until Monday. A source at the proceedings told SW Radio Africa that the case was postponed again, because the prosecution is still trying to gather enough evidence.

The nurses meanwhile have returned to work, but residents in Chiweshe have told SW Radio Africa that services there have not returned to normal since Dr. Thistle was forced to leave. The doctor was dismissed after raising concerns that funds he had sourced for the hospital were not making it past the Salvation Army administration in Zimbabwe.

The Salvation Army has insisted that Dr. Thistle’s ‘reassignment’ to his native Canada was a normal internal process, despite the fact that he was an intrinsic part of the hospital over the last 16 years. The doctor meanwhile has refused three separate attempts by the Salvation Army leadership in Zimbabwe to get him on a plane back to Canada, insisting he is staying while his colleagues face trial.

The nurses, along with their 12 co-accused, will be back in court on October 5th.

A resident in Chiweshe meanwhile told SW Radio Africa that they are growing confident that the doctor will be back in his position soon, after his Zimbabwean born wife, Pedrina, was reassigned to the hospital recently.

“His wife is coming back to Howard as a senior nursing teacher. We don’t know about Dr. Thistle yet but we are confident he is coming back,” the resident said.

The resident added that investigations into the alleged misuse of funds for the hospital has begun, with the weekend arrival of three delegations, one from the President’s office, one from the London headquarters of the Salvation Army, and one from the Canadian branch of the Christian group.

There is also ongoing speculation that another reason behind the doctor’s dismissal is ZANU PF politics, as Vice President Joice Mujuru is a senior member of the Salvation Army leadership in Zimbabwe. It’s understood the hospital is in an area that is supportive of Mujuru’s rival Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Mujuru has used her influence to control the area through the hospital. SW Radio Africa

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