Magombeyi’s abduction requires a firm ‘Jamal Khashoggi-style’ solidarity response

The recent abduction of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors' Association (ZHDA) acting president Dr. Peter Magombeyi should be a wake up call for all Zimbabweans to finally stand strongly together against this evil scourge of intolerance and brutal repression that has gripped our nation.

During our schooling days, we learnt how prominent nationalist Edison Sithole was abducted in broad daylight by suspected Rhodesia state security agents…never to been seen again. Yet, who would have  ever imagined such a gruesome thing occurring in an independent Zimbabwe. However, that has exactly what we have been unfornately witnessing ever since the Union Jack was last lowered in this country in 1980.

The people of the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces were the first to experience this most heinous form of repression, during the darkest part of this country’s modern day history of Gukurahundi – whereby, over 20,000 innocent men, women and children were massacred by the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade – as countless people vanished without a trace, leaving behind families that even today are not aware of their whereabouts. This occurance resulted in thousands of children growing up without any form of identification, as they could not acquire birth registration certificates due to the unexplained absence of their parents, effectively  rendering them stateless – something against international law – in addition to denying them an education, and formal employment.

This heartless repression of forced disappearances did not stop there, as the next four decades of Zimbabwe’s oppressive history continued to be soiled by numerous such cases.

Of note, was the 2015 abduction of prominent journalist cum activist Itai Dzamara from his residential suburb in broad daylight, yet to date, no progress at all has ever been made regarding his whereabouts, and neither has his family received any state assistance in their welfare.

In spite of a court ruling compelling the state to investigate and issue regular updates on Dzamara – who rose to prominence for his one-man ‘Mugabe must go!’ protests in Zimbabwe capital city Harare’s Africa Unity Square – his family says that this has largely been ignored.

As much as there was an outcry by various sections of Zimbabwean society regarding his abduction – which galvanized reasonable international and local attention and pressure – the recent upsurge of similar incidences points to the urgent need for further firmer and more concerted solidarity by a cross-section of the country in standing up against this evil scourge.

In 2019 alone, it has so far been reported that there have been over 50 cases of abductions of activists. This is surely very troubling, especially in a country that touts itself as democratic, where basic rights should be respected.

What also makes the most recent cases of abductions particularly worrying is the targeting of labour rights activists – who would normally not be expected to be in the crosshairs – who would be merely exercising their constitutional rights to ‘fair and safe labour practices and standards and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage’, through their right ‘to form and join trade unions and employee organisations of their choice, and participate in the lawful activities of those unions and organizations’ by ‘participating in collective job action, including the right to strike, sit in, withdraw their labour and take similar concerted action’.

Then what would justify the abduction and beating up of a leader of a teachers’ union, such as Obert Masaraure, the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), for merely calling for a strike to demand a decent wage?

A few days ago, the nation was again rocked by the abduction of Magombeyi for exercising the same rights for doctors – and his whereabouts are yet to be accounted for.

What impresses me, though, is the unified response by doctors and other health care professionals, who have come together in solidarity demanding the immediate and safe return of their colleague. This is a first for Zimbabwe, as this measure of solidarity through concrete and concerted action has not been seen before.

Furthermore, other organizations – such as ARTUZ – have thrown their weight firmly behind this cause through various pledges for action, including strikes.

Such is what has been missing in this country – the ‘one for all, and all for one’ solidarity in the face of wanton repression by an increasingly intolerant and brutal people.

What threat and danger does someone calling for better wages and working conditions pose to the establishment that warrants such a brutal response?

In fact, can any brutal repression ever be justifiable under any circumstances? Never.

These are simply the hallmarks of a people who are paranoid and haunted by their own shadows. A people whose only response to dissent is panic characterized by brazen callous brutality.

The solidarity that we witnessed by the international community in the face of a similarly brutal abduction and murder of Saudi Arabia journalist cum activist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Turkey, is what is now required to put an end to these savage acts.

After Khashoggi’s murder, his colleagues in the global media fraternity exhibited a unity that had never been witnessed before to place pressure on the Saudi regime. This inevitably led to further pressure mounting in other facets of the global community, such that, although the Saudi authorities initially sought to rubbish his abduction, they soon had to acknowledge their role – albeit, blaming ‘rogue elements’.

Nonetheless, what this solidarity proved was the undeniable power of unity in the face of wanton repression.

Zimbabweans now need to actively unite around the demand for Dr. Peter Magombeyi’s immediate and safe return, and the end to these abductions. This message should unequivocally be taken across borders, such that real and genuine action is taken against such a primitive practice.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activists, writer, author, and speaker. Please contact him on email: [email protected], or WhatsApp/call: +263733399640, or calls only: +263715667700, or +263782283975.

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