HARARE (Reuters) - Striking doctors in Zimbabwe marched to parliament on Thursday to protest the disappearance of their union leader and press the government to increase their pay after a court ruled that police should not interfere with the march.
Police had blocked previous attempts by the doctors to march to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s offices and to parliament to present petitions after Peter Magombeyi, the leader of the Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors Association (ZDHA), went missing.
The group challenged the police actions and High Court Judge Clement Phiri ruled that the doctors could go ahead with Thursday’s march after lawyers for the police conceded that the actions by law enforcement agents were unlawful.
ZDHA represents junior and middle level doctors at public hospitals. The doctors have been on strike since Sept. 3, demanding a further pay increase as living costs soar.
As in the past, the government has called in army medics to help in the hospitals, which are already struggling with shortages of medicines.
“The situation in our hospitals is so saddening and we don’t draw any pleasure from it. The sooner it ends the better for us,” Tawanda Zvakada, ZHDA acting secretary general told said after handing in a petition to parliament.
Riot police were out in full force and cordoned off a park near parliament where the doctors gathered, to stop ordinary citizens from joining the demonstration.
Last month, police banned protests planned by the opposition over Mnangagwa’s handling of the economy.
The demonstrations were viewed as a test of Mnangagwa’s willingness to tolerate dissent in a country tainted by a long history of repression under his predecessor Robert Mugabe, who died on Sept. 6 in Singapore.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Catherine Evans