By Gift Phiri
The family of activist Itai Dzamara, who went missing exactly three years ago, has said Zimbabwean authorities must return him to them dead or alive.
Dzamara was getting his haircut at a barbershop in the working class suburb of Glen View in Harare on March 9, 2015, when five armed men seized him, shoved him into an unmarked truck and sped off. He hasn’t been seen since.
Dzamara, 35 then, was a journalist and opposition supporter who spearheaded a pro-democracy movement called “Occupy Africa Unity Square” that was demanding long-standing president then, Robert Mugabe, to resign.
Mugabe was toppled last November in a soft military coup.
Patson Dzamara, the younger brother of Itai, fumed that repeated accusations that the country’s feared military intelligence was responsible for the missing social justice campaigner’s brazen abduction.
“First and foremost, we have never minced our words regarding who the perpetrators of this heinous act are. Itai’s abduction was masterminded by the military intelligence under the oversight of Zanu PF,” Patson told Daily News yesterday.
Army spokesperson Alphios Makotore has already denied the Zimbabwe military intelligence’s involvement in Dzamara’s disappearance, saying it was a publicity stunt by the family and a figment of his own imaginations.
“The army intelligence does not take orders from any political party. Patson’s claims are just meant to seek media attention and mislead members of the public,” Makotore said.
Government has made no progress accounting for Dzamara, and his family said authorities needs to provide information on his fate or whereabouts.
Patson demanded that “the government bring Itai Dzamara back to us, dead or alive.”
“We demand reparations for Itai Dzamara’s family. Itai has a wife and two children,” he said.
He also called for the institutionalisation of an independent commission of inquiry to look into the abduction of Itai and, ultimately, other similar cases of enforced disappearance and to make the findings public.
Patson said Itai’s children were extremely upset and distressed by the removal of their dad.
He said the children — of school going age — were worried about, in effect, never seeing their father again.
“Itai’s two children know what happened to their father. We actually had to transfer his son from his former school to his current as a result of that.
“Some of his former classmates would ridicule him using his father’s abduction and he would come home crying. That affected his performance in class as well,” Patson told Daily News.
“The children consistently ask their mother when their father is going to return.”
Three years after his abduction, Sheffa Dzamara, the missing journalist’s wife, cries consistently for her missing husband and still holds out hope they will be reunited.
Patson said the children are very distraught.
“It’s confounding for them the same way it is for all of us. They always seek to know whether their father is alive or dead. It’s not easy for them,” Patson said, adding it was critical to note that it took a High Court order for the police to ‘investigate’ this matter.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights successfully filed a habeas corpus application at the High Court ordering senior security officials “to do all things necessary to determine his whereabouts”.
High Court Justice David Mangota also directed a team of police detectives to work closely with Dzamara’s legal team to search for him.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police is appealing for information on the whereabouts of Itai Peace Kadiki Dzamara, aged 35 years,” said a police statement issued three years with contact details.
Patson said there is no evidence of any serious government investigations into the enforced disappearance and authorities have not organised a specific briefing on the status of the case.
“We were directly involved in the process, myself in particular and I can without doubt confirm that the investigations were a facade. The reports they presented were glossed and whitewashed.
“Shockingly, to date, absolutely nothing has come out of the so-called investigations and Itai Dzamara is still missing. In other words, as far as the government and the security agencies are concerned, they don’t know what happened to Itai three years after he was abducted. That’s is totally mendacious and unacceptable.”
Patson said “there can never be any excuse whatsoever and this lethargic approach points towards a very unfortunate reality.
“They took away my brother and I am not going to rest until this matter is resolved.”
Patson said President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took office just over 100 days ago, promising change and progressive steps towards a more democratic future, after 37 years of Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule, was selling bottled smoke.
“How Mnangagwa’s administration has also remained mum even after I made concerted efforts to engage them, is disgusting and at the same time revealing,” Patson fumed.
“How they have refused to merely engage us over this issue is totally repugnant and unfortunate. We hoped that in his first 100 days, Itai’s issue would be addressed. There can’t be any excuse as to why this issue can’t be resolved. It’s now three years and the custodians of so called new era have shown that there is nothing new about this era.”
He said in the spirit of Itai Dzamara, “the upcoming election be free and fair,” he said, referring to the mid-year harmonised presidential, parliamentary and municipal polls. Daily News