Harare, (New Ziana) – Late Thursday night, Dr Peter Magombeyi was found alive and safe, without any visible physical injuries, some four days after he had been reported missing.
His disappearance became a source of instability in the Zimbabwe medical fraternity and caused serious tensions between the Zimbabwean government and its stakeholders.
Dr Magombeyi, a 26 year old junior medical doctor, who is the acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZADH) went missing on Saturday 14 September in a development which his associates alleged had been preceded by threatening messages from state security agents, since he was leading negotiations for a review of conditions of service for doctors.
As with everything in Zimbabwe’s polarised society, the issue became political, with the opposition and its civic society allies claiming abduction while the government dismissed it as a self-orchestrated disappearance.
In a show of solidarity with their colleague, doctors downed tools and ran under the theme #NoPeterNoWork, putting the health sector in an unprecedented crisis that prompted the government to request military doctors to fill the gap.
Marches were held, night vigils conducted, praying for the doctor’s safe return.
The government dismissed claims that it was behind Dr Magombeyi’s alleged abduction, saying it was the work of a “third force” bent on soiling its image as it could not afford to involve itself in actions that jeopardised the engagement and re-engagement process that it was pursuing to return the country to the family of nations after years of isolation.
Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Sibusiso Moyo said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration would also not engage in practices that endangered the lives of citizens.
It later emerged that Dr Mugombeyi had reportedly told a housemate that he was going for an all-night church service when he left his house in the Budiriro high density suburb, before alarm was raised that he was missing.
Government officials cited a recent case of another alleged abduction of a comedian, who resurfaced hours later, alleging she had been assaulted by unidentified masked man, who the opposition and its civic society allies again alleged were state security agents.
“We therefore find it very curious that whenever there is an impending international gathering or a high profile visit to Zimbabwe these
criminal acts are always perpetrated on our innocent citizens,” said Dr Moyo
He added the latest abduction of Dr Peter Magombeyi was meant to coincide with the visit to Zimbabwe by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association as well as the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting.
On social media, there was yet another section that was highly convinced that the United States embassy in particular was involved in Dr Magombeyi’s disappearance as one of the tactics to paint black President Mnangagwa’s government.
The embassy is known to be an active and key player, in Zimbabwean politics and was a mastermind in failed demonstrations by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change last month.
That Dr Magombeyi later emerged in Nyabira, less than 30 kilometres from where the US built its new embassy, further fueled the suspicions.
And that he immediately gave an interview to American funded Voice of America Studio 7 talking about the “abduction” did not do him any good.
While there is wide spread relief that Dr Magombeyi was found alive and well, the little he has told the media so far has not helped clear matters about his “disappearance.”
So far he has said he does not remember much of what happened to him, besides that he was tortured at an underground basement, before he was found Thursday night.
“I only remember that I was kidnapped by three men in town (initial reports said from his house in Budiriro) and I do not remember what happened afterwards,” he said.
Could it be a case of retrograde amnesia (the loss of memory-access to events that occurred, or information that was learned, before an injury or the onset of a disease) or simply trying to avoid telling the truth.
As the nation still eagerly awaits the answers as to whether the doctor was really kidnapped, by who and to what end, on social media, those who doubt the kidnapping narrative have since launched a hashtag #MagombeyiChallenge, joking about the alleged abduction.