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Strikes and repression spread across the African continent

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Issue 2698
Tear gas was used on crowds in Kenya
Tear gas was used on crowds in Kenya

Nurses and doctors in Zimbabwe in southern Africa began a strike last week to protest against the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association spokesperson Tapiwa Zvakada said doctors won’t resume work until the government provides them proper protective gear they need while treating patients.

“There is a difference between heroism and committing suicide,” said Zvakada. “Let PPEs be available first and then we will be able to offer our services and help our patients.”

Nurses in the public hospitals who have also joined the strike said the health ministry have not responded to previous requests for PPE

The Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union said in a statement, “It seems our concern is not getting the urgency it deserves.  So in that regard all nurses are withdrawing their services with immediate effect until there is genuine action taken by the employer.” 

The present emergency has accelerated longer term issues.

Five months ago, during a previous strike, senior doctors described the situation at the country’s hospitals as a “silent genocide.” 

They said doctors are forced to work without basics such as bandages, gloves, and syringes.


Police fired tear gas at a crowd of Kenyan ferry commuters as the country’s first days of a coronavirus curfew began last week. 

Amnesty International Kenya and 19 other human rights groups said they were “horrified by excessive use of police force” ahead of the curfew that began last Friday night. 

“We continue to receive testimonies from victims, eyewitnesses and video footage showing police gleefully assaulting members of the public in other parts of the country.”

The tear gas caused hundreds of people trying to reach a ferry in the port city of Mombasa ahead of the overnight curfew to touch their faces as they vomited, spat and wiped away tears. This increases the chance of the virus’s spread, the rights groups said. 

South Africa

Police assaulted homeless people in Johannesburg and hit some with batons minutes after a three-week lockdown began last Friday. They also fired rubber bullets at shoppers queuing outside a supermarket.

On Saturday the military raided a large workers’ hostel in Alexandra township near Johannesburg for alleged failure to apply the lockdown. At least 55 people across the country were arrested. 

In a move that could have huge consequences, the government has said it is looking to “depopulate” 29 large informal settlements where tens of thousands of people live. 

The department of human settlements says it is moving people to areas where they will have better facilities. 

But shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo says that brutal evictions are being carried out without any concern for the residents.

“The government tells us that we must all stay inside our homes during this health crisis and yet, at the same time, they are demolishing the homes of impoverished people” said the group.

“We are left with no choice but to continue to resist oppression during this crisis. 

“We will organise our resistance in the safest possible way, but we will resist. People whose homes have been destroyed now have no other choice than to reoccupy and to rebuild.

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