14 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Nurse Convicted Over Howard Hospital Protest

A nurse from the Salvation Army run Howard Hospital has been sentenced to two years in prison, after being convicted in connection with a protest against the removal of the facility's top doctor last year.

Milton Zindoga was among a group of 20 people, including seven fellow nurses, who were arrested during a protest outside the hospital in Chiweshe. The demonstration was organised by angry residents, outraged over the forced removal of the chief doctor Paul Thistle.

He was dismissed from the facility last year after raising concerns about financial mismanagement. It's understood the claims implicated the head of the Salvation Army in Zimbabwe, Vinece Chigariro, who led the campaign to remove Dr. Thistle.

The doctor's removal caused outcry, because of the work he had done to turn the Howard mission into a highly respected medical facility. He was also considered a valued member of the community after living there for more than 16 years.

His dismissal, which the Salvation Army has insisted was a standard 'reassignment', prompted a violent backlash from community members who protested his removal in August. That protest turned violent, leading to the police arresting 20 people, including eight nurses. The trial dragged on for months, but eventually most of the arrested group was released without charge.

However Zindoga has been convicted for allegedly 'inciting' the violence and has been sentenced to a two year jail term.

SW Radio Africa has been told that a local workers' committee is attempting to file and appeal against the conviction, but to no avail yet.

The hospital meanwhile is facing a desperate situation, with no chief surgeon being appointed to replace Dr. Thistle. The local community has also been actively silenced, with a heavy police presence in the area preventing people from protesting.

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