Linda Masarira in hospital after her assault on Saturday
Harare – It was on Saturday around 12 pm when a group of activists sat down on the lawn at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Marking a major health rights breakdown in Zimbabwe, medical staff that primarily comprise of junior doctors have been on strike from February 14, 2017, until the time of writing.
Nurses issued strike notice yesterday, February 27.
Worried about the plight of Zimbabweans who have been failing to get medical care at public hospitals as a result of the strike, the human rights activists had planned to stage a peaceful protest to ask the government to solve the unfolding healthcare crisis.
Police had already parked their vehicles at the public healthcare institution in evident anticipation of their action.
ZimRights Outstanding Female Human Rights Defender winner of year 2016, Linda Masarira ended up being hospitalised at Avenues Clinic – a private healthcare facility – after she was assaulted by five riot police details.
She claims that she suffered soft tissue injury on the neck, thighs, and backsides, while her kidney functions reportedly got temporarily disrupted.
After she got discharged on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, Masarira told ZimRights that the group she was part of was still waiting for others to arrive, when the incident occurred.
“The demonstration was meant for us to express displeasure with the ongoing birthday of the President when patients are dying of poor services in government hospitals across the country,” she said.
About 500 km away from the capital city, President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 93rd birthday on Saturday at a huge party in Matobo estimated to have costed above US$ 1 million.
Masarira said riot police came and inquired why they were sitting on the lawn.
The group of activists reportedly told the police that they waiting for visiting time; they were ordered immediately to leave.
“When we started walking away they stopped Kuzivakwashe, my 17 year old son, and harassed him verbally,” she said.
“As we were walking away riot police jumped out of their truck and assaulted Calvin and Nathaniel.
“I decided to take pictures from a distance and they ran after me and dragged me to their lorry where assaulted me.”
Masarira said five police details assaulted her for taking the moment of her colleagues’ assault on camera.
“I was assaulted by five policemen at the same time with baton sticks,” she said.
“When I asked why they were beating me up, they said I am not a journalist I should not take pictures.
“They sped off and another vehicle a green Land Rover came with the reaction team who then arrested us.”
Police also reportedly arrested Kuzivakwashe Mhlanga, Tinashe Zhakata, Nyasha Marimo, Nyasha Makota and Tafadzwa Shumba.
Eight people had been arrested, but one of them turned out to have been spying on the activists.
The stranger reportedly disappeared when they reached the Law and Order Section at Harare Central police station, after refusing free legal representation from human rights lawyer David Hofisi, a member of the Zimbabwe Human Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
Masarira and her colleagues only left the police station to seek medical attention after paying a US$ 10 fine each.
Police refused to take her to hospital, she said.