By Thelma Chikwanha and Lloyd Mbiba
HARARE – After three days of strenuous denials by the government on the whereabouts and welfare of abducted political activist Itai Dzamara, speculation was rife on Wednesday that he was detained at a police station in Harare as his wife made a passionate plea for his abductors to release him.
But Charles Kwaramba of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who is representing Dzamara, told the Daily News that they had not found the maverick government critic when they went to Harare Central Police Station.
“I can confirm that we also received the tip-offs that Itai was being held at the Harare Central Police Station, but the police told us he was not in their custody when we got there,” he said.
And as the anger among Zimbabweans regarding Dzamara’s abduction continued to mount, his distraught wife, Sheffra, made an emotional plea to his abductors to release him, saying the couple’s minor children were in distress and crying for their father to come back home.
At the same time, there was universal condemnation of the abduction within Zimbabwe and among the international community — with riot police assaulting hundreds of MDC youths who marched and petitioned Parliament for Dzamara’s immediate release.
The 36-year-old journalist, was abducted from a barber shop in Harare’s high density suburb of Glen View on Monday morning by some unidentified men, suspected to be State security agents, who were travelling in a white twin cab vehicle with a blurred registration number plate.
Upon abducting Dzamara, the captors reportedly and bizarrely accused him of having stolen a beast before bundling him into their vehicle.
Since his disappearance four days ago, his mobile phone has been switched off and he has not had any contact with his wife, family members and friends, and is being held incommunicado even from his lawyers — which is against the tenets of the law.
The emotional Sheffa, who was in the company of her brother-in-law Patson, told the Daily News that she was appealing to the country’s leaders and to the conscience of her husbands’ abductors to “search their humanity” and release him unharmed.
“Please release my husband alive because his children are still young and they still need their father,” the grief-stricken Sheffra pleaded, choking with emotion.
The 32-year-old mother of two also revealed that her children aged seven and three were struggling to cope with their father’s absence.
“My seven-year-old who is in Grade 2 is aware of the fact that his father is not there. He asks frequently after his father and it is clear that he is greatly disturbed by his father’s absence,” she said.
Sheffa said life had been unbearable for the family since her husband’s abduction — particularly since Dzamara was the family’s sole bread winner.
“It is terrible, and I am actually being assisted by my brothers-in-law,” she said.
Sheffra also said she believed that her husband’s abduction was planned because a few days earlier she had spotted two vehicles, an Isuzu and Nissan twin cab, circling her home.
“The vehicles made at least five rounds and immediately my suspicions were aroused because I know that my husband is a targeted man. I even took the number plate of the white Isuzu truck.
“When my husband was then abducted, I was told that a car with five people came for him. Since that day, I haven’t heard a word from him or about him,” Sheffra said.
Expounding on her suspicion that the government was behind the abduction, she said, “Authorities once told him one day gava richadambura musungo (we will get you one day)”.
Patson, who is Itai’s young brother, also took issue with the fact that Dzamara had not been allowed to contact his family or legal counsel since he was abducted.
“It is over 48 hours and we have not heard from him, and neither have we heard anything from the authorities,” he complained.
Patson said he suspected the abduction was linked to Itai’s speech at an MDC rally last weekend where he called on Zimbabweans to protest against the worsening economic and political climate in the country.
“On Saturday, it was made clear that the MDC were taking him on board and I think that’s what triggered them to abduct him.
“His speech was that Zimbabweans must take action and that is what triggered their response,” Patson said.
He also told the Daily News that the family was following all leads that they were being given by members of the public in their efforts to locate his brother.
“We heard about the Goromonzi dead body and we went there and confirmed it was not him. Some are saying he is being held in Braeside and others say in Mataga, while some are even suggesting Botswana.
“As a family, we are appealing to the conscience of whoever is responsible to bring him back as he is a father and a person who is trying to add his voice to development in his country.
“Zimbabwe belongs to Zimbabweans. Is (opposition leader Morgan) Tsvangirai or (President Robert) Mugabe bigger than the nation?” he asked rhetorically.
Tsvangirai savaged Mugabe and his Zanu PF government on Tuesday, accusing them of being behind the brazen, broad-daylight abduction of Dzamara.
Describing the abduction as “morbid” and “callous”, he added that Zimbabweans now “feared for the worst” for Dzamara — who is best known for bravely leading the Occupy Africa Unity Square (OAUS) initiative from the front, which has seen the activist being incarcerated and viciously assaulted by police on several occasions.
“The callous abduction of Itai Dzamara has come as a complete shock to me, to the MDC and to Zimbabweans at large. Only yesterday, we heard he was abducted from a hair salon and driven away in an Isuzu vehicle by five unknown men.
“To the MDC family, his abduction and disappearance comes as a shock because at our rally at Zimbabwe Grounds on Saturday, he gave a solidarity speech in which he supported our call for action and protests against the deteriorating situation in the country.
“We are in no doubt as to the perpetrators of this abduction. We hold Mugabe and his regime responsible for this morbid and senseless act.
The president, who is also AU and Sadc chair, cannot preside over a country where innocent citizens get abducted and disappear,” Tsvangirai said.
He cited the recent controversial statement by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was quoted saying that he was trained to shoot and kill, as symptomatic of the violent tendencies of the leaders of Zanu PF.
“It is no wonder that with such reckless and misguided talk from the top leadership of the country, an innocent Zimbabwean is abducted in very suspicious circumstances.
“We hold the State culpable. We hold Zanu PF responsible. We demand a full investigation and arrests of the culprits so that Zimbabweans can live in the comfort that we have a government that cares and takes seriously its responsibility to protect citizens.
“The circumstances of Dzamara’s abduction are very familiar to the MDC family, which has lost many cadres in similar circumstance. Tonderai Ndira, Tichaona Chiminya, Beta Chokururama and many others have been abducted and in most cases found murdered.
“In 2008, many MDC activists were maimed, raped or murdered and seven years later, no single arrest has been made in connection with the crimes.
“Today, in an almost similar script, Dzamara is abducted in broad daylight and that is why we fear for the worst. We thought this country had moved on and was past these barbaric and shameful acts. We thought we had moved to full civilisation but it appears the leopard has remained faithful to its spots,” Tsvangirai said.
He added that Dzamara’s abduction was “a morbid message to Zimbabweans, to Sadc, to Africa and the broader international community that the demon is back, that violence remains very much part of our political culture”.
“We all know that Dzamara has been leading public but constitutional protests against the government, for which he has previously been brutally attacked by State security agents. For us, there is no wonder as to the identity of the people behind his abduction and disappearance.
“Zimbabweans should join us in demanding that the truth be revealed about what has happened to this innocent man. We in the MDC demand nothing short of a full investigation and the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of this barbaric act,” he said.
Source: Daily News