Peter Matambanadzo and Phyllis Kachere
AT least 12 villagers were arrested after they allegedly attacked police and overturned a pick-up truck in protest against the pending transfer of a doctor based at Howard Mission Hospital in Chiweshe yesterday.
Police had to fire tear gas to disperse nearly 1 000 violent demonstrators who started the protest inside the hospital.
The demonstration started at around 12:30pm after chief medical officer, Dr Paul Thistle, was served with a letter of transfer by Salvation Army officers to vacate the mission hospital.
A witness said rowdy youths from villages around the hospital were joined by staff in the demonstration.
“They attacked the Salvation Army officers who brought the transfer letter and overturned a white pick-up truck.”
Riot police were called in to stop the demonstration in which police were reportedly attacked with stones and other weapons.
Mashonaland Central police Chief Superintendent Shepherd Chiwoko said they were investigating the case to bring those responsible for the violence to book.
“We are not going to leave any stone unturned. All those responsible will be arrested,” he said.
Chief Supt Chiwoko said Dr Thistle’s case was an internal Salvation Army matter that the police could not interfere with.
He said it should be resolved amicably.
“This is a simple transfer case and should not result in violence and destruction of property,” said Chief Supt Chiwoko. “Our duty is to maintain law and order and as a result we have arrested 12 suspects who will help us with investigations.”
Chief Supt Chiwoko said peace had been restored at the hospital and business was going on as usual.
There was heavy police presence at the hospital when The Herald arrived in the afternoon.
Police had gone into a closed-door meeting with Dr Thistle and a four-member delegation from the Salvation Army Headquarters in Harare led by Lieutenant Colonel Kazhi Mupingani.
After the almost two-hour meeting, Lt-Col Mupingani declined to comment, saying he was not allowed to talk to the media.
Dr Thistle also declined to comment saying: “Under the church, we are not allowed to comment. So, I can’t give you any interview.”
Mashonaland Central Governor Advocate Martin Dinha said in an interview that he had called for an urgent meeting with the Salvation Army territorial commander Ms Venus Chigariro.
He said he wanted to convince the church leadership to rescind the decision to send Dr Thistle back to Canada.
The delegation was led by provincial administrator Mr Josphat Jaji and comprised the officer commanding Mashonaland Central Senior Assistant Commissioner Lee Muchemwa, provincial medical director Dr Clemence Tshuma and provincial intelligence officer Mr Obey Mashingaidze.
“As we speak, the provincial delegation is in an emergency meeting with the Salvation Army territorial commander Ms Venus Chigariro and her team,” said Adv Dinha.
“The meeting is meant to convince the church leadership to rescind their decision. We understand the people’s anger and hope the church will be sensitive to these developments.”
Those interviewed said they wanted Dr Thistle to remain at the hospital, saying he was dedicated to serving the Chiweshe community.