Takudzwa Bheja, 17, from Magwegwe North suburb, was only released after her family managed to raise $30.
Bheja said being detained at clinic was the most traumatising experience she has ever gone through.
“It’s very disturbing because you see others coming and going, leaving you behind. There’s nothing you can do there but sit and look after your baby. It’s so painful to come from a poor family,” said an emotional Bheja.
Bheja’s stepfather, Harunashe Nyoni, said: “What happened is that after falling pregnant, she fled to Nyamandlovu where she has been staying and only came back here on Tuesday. She hadn’t been registered anywhere, so the clinic was demanding a $30 registration fee and $50 maternity fees but we didn’t have the money.”
Nyoni said his daughter went into labour on Friday and gave birth early Saturday morning without complications but the clinic staff said they could not release her without the money.
“One of the senior nurses at the clinic told us that they didn’t care even if she stayed for three months as long as she doesn’t pay at least $30 she wouldn’t be discharged”, he said.
A source at the clinic said it was procedural that no one is discharged without paying the $30 registration fee.
“Last week we had four nursing mothers who were detained for failing to pay maternity fees. One was short of $3 and her relatives had to look for it in order for her to be discharged,” said the source.
Comment could not be obtained from Bulawayo’s health director Dr Zanele Hwalima who was said to be in a meeting.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights regional manager Lizwe Jamela said it was unlawful for the clinic to detain anyone over non-payment of fees.
“If someone fails to pay you don’t take the law into your own hands, you’ve to follow proper legal procedures.
“Unlawful detention is a violation of the constitution’s right to freedom of liberty,” said Jamela. The country recorded 19 maternal deaths, six of them in Matabeleland provinces, in the first two weeks of 2016 amid fears by gender activists that more deaths were going unreported.
Among the major causes of maternal mortality are lack of access to health services and economic challenges.
Matabeleland South proportional representation MP, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said expectant mothers will continue to die at home as long as health institutions demand payment for services.