The Director of Public Prosecution has delayed the hearing of a case where Taveta locals and rights activists are charged with assembling “unlawfully”.
On March 4, police arrested eight people in Taveta when they wanted to protest the poor health system in Taita Taveta county.
The police arraigned the group on May 5 and charged them with “unlawful assembly” and “contravening Covid-19 protocols”. They denied the first count, while the prosecution dropped the second charge.
The trial was to begin April 22 before Taveta Magistrate Adesa Louser, but the public prosecutor pushed it to May 19. Reason: “Two witnesses, all police officers, were way in Mombasa on official duty”.
The arrested were a mixture of young and old, men and women—and had been victims of poor health services in public hospitals. They are Sharlet Ndiga, 51, Cecilia Mukonyo, 65, and Mariam Matiku, 59. Others are Alex Mzasi, Ruphas Ngura, Mohamed Ali, and MUHURI’s Kelly Aduo and Francis Auma.
The eight went to the street because the county refused to act on their demands, including hiring more health workers and equipping public hospitals, most lacking drugs.
Medics in Taita Taveta started striking last November, and locals reported their kins dying in hospital because no one was attending to them. Medical workers were demanding delayed salaries, Personal Protective Equipment, remittance of statutory deductions, and more.
The industrial action resulted in a dysfunctional health system: maternity, pediatric and cancer care, in-patient, and renal services collapsed.
Taita Taveta county reacted by stonewalling talks with the workers’ union, sacking 500 health personnel in January, and evicting some 69 nurses from staff quarters.
Facing the threat of permanently losing their jobs, some striking medics in late March accepted lesser perks to hold on to their employment.
Even still—and as eight public health advocates await trial—Taita Taveta county has done nothing much to uplift its health system.