Govt must act on Dzamara disappearance
By McDonald Lewanika
On March 7, 2015, a 35-year-old Zimbabwean gave a solidarity speech at an MDC T rally at Zimbabwe grounds, where he supported calls for action against the failure of the government of Zimbabwe to deliver social and economic justice.
This 35-year-old, was not an MDC official, but an activist, who for some time had been practising what he preached, through staging small demonstrations at Africa Unity Square in Harare, and leading a small number of committed activists to petition Zesa Holdings (Zesa), the city council and the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Two days later, on Monday March 9, while getting a hair cut in Harare’s Glen View suburb, this activist was abducted, in broad day light, by a group of five men who claimed to be police officers arresting him for cattle rustling.
It is now over a month since Dzamara was abducted. His abduction is a sad reminder of the continuity of a deadly politics in Zimbabwe that has been part of the DNA of the ruling party since it ascended to power in 1980.
While Itai’s abduction is not the first, it is significant in that it shows that not much has changed in the modus operandi of Zanu PF in terms of dealing with determined opponents.
While the political terrain is shifting, and most Zimbabweans thought the détente between the major political parties ushered in by the Government of National Unity (GNU) would lead to lasting changes in political culture, Itai’s abduction is a sad reminder of the fact that a leopard does not change its spots.
Dzamara’s opposition to the Mugabe regime is an open secret, being one of the few Zimbabweans to call for the resignation of the president because of his failure to lead in an open manner.
He did so in an overt manner, writing to the president himself, telling him his truth, and delivering his message not through a newspaper column as most of us usually do, despite the fact that he is a trained journalist, but through a letter he delivered himself to the president’s office in October 2014.
Many Zimbabweans have echoed Itai’s call, but not many have done so in the brave manner he has. A lot echo Itai’s calls through the comfort of numbers at rallies, the security of closed beer drinking circles and Whatsapp groups that we hope against hope are private.
Others have been brave enough to make similar calls but under the cover and protection of distance, doing so from distant lands where Mugabe’s leadership and economic decline have exiled them.
Itai spoke bravely about leadership failure, and it is perhaps his speech that has led him to being held incommunicado for the last month, away from comrades, friends and a family that clearly loves him.
But what those who have abducted him did not count on is that the very action of trying to shut him up through this enforced disappearance, would communicate his message louder than Dzamara could, standing on a fountain in Africa Unity Square.
Nothing wrings of failure more than a state’s inability to protect its citizens, which is its primary responsibility. The State and its apparatchiks are on record as saying they do not know what happened to Itai and do not know where he is.
If one believes this, then they can believe anything.
What boggles the mind is, if indeed the State does not have Itai in their keep, why are the ministries of State Security and Home Affairs, the police and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) refusing to report to court their efforts so far and what they have yielded as ordered by High Court Judge David Mangota on the 13th of March 2015?
If the hands of the State are clean, why are minister Kembo Mohadi, commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri and director-general Happyton Bonyongwe risking arrest for contempt of court by not reporting their findings in the court-sanctioned search for Dzamara?
Why, instead of looking for Itai, is the State focusing its energies on trailing and harassing Dzamara’s known associates from Occupy Africa Unity Square?
Is it really far fetched to think that the State, even at the injunction of powerful Vice President, Mugabe’s Heir apparent and Minister of Justice Emmerson Mnangagwa, is not looking for Dzamara, because to them his whereabouts are not unknown and they were the conductors of this “barbaric” act as condemned by the minister and vice president?
What really sounds far-fetched is what the State-controlled media, and some Zanu PF apologists have claimed, that he was not abducted but took flight to Botswana in order to attract the attention that this matter has.
Others have deployed the narrative that the MDC T or some of his colleagues in Occupy Africa Unity Square (OUAS) abducted him.
I have very little doubt that had any of these claims credible, the State would have moved with haste to prove them and expose these groups that clearly and overtly stand in opposition to Mugabe’s leadership.
Dzamara would have since been found, paraded as a rescue victim of the State, and members of the MDC and OUAS arrested for kidnapping and impersonating police officers.
So, a month down the line, the State should spare us propaganda, and produce Dzamara, reunite him with a family that is agonised by the reality of not knowing where he is, what state he is in and what crimes he is said to have committed to deserve this inhumane treatment.
Dzamara is a Zimbabwean citizen, who deserves to be protected by the State and who has rights.
If he is suspected of any wrong doing, he has a right to face his accusers in court of law and be subject to a police investigation, not an enforced disappearance where he is held incommunicado, and his fundamental rights including the right to life; to the protection of the law; to access relatives, family and friends; to access his lawyers; to freedom of movement and association, are threatened.
The calculated intent of Dzamara’s abduction is to induce fear into activists and ordinary citizens by a State that is clearly authoritarian in character.
It is a demonstration of how this authoritarian State deals with opponents, especially those with the gull to mobilise for action.
A reminder of this capacity so tellingly displayed in the past, but perhaps more worrying, an indicator of the future that we are headed to as a people. The State has demonstrated its power, and not just activists, but the people in general must demonstrate theirs.
The cause that Itai stood for was not one for his distraught mother, worried brother, or his gutted wife and children. It was and is a cause for all Zimbabweans aimed at living in a freer more democratic society where social services are readily available.
It is our cause. The challenge is now ours, as Dzamara’s brother Partson, so ably put it, “Itai stood in the gap for us, we should stand in the gap for him”.
*McDonald Lewanika is the Director of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.