Moyo under fire over Dzamara slur
By Bridget Mananavire
HARARE – Information minister Jonathan Moyo has been sledged by rights groups for his “condescending remarks” that there was nothing unusual about the enforced disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara.
Responding to a question by Stephen Sackur on BBC’s HARDtalk on Monday about the abduction of Dzamara near his Glen View home on March 9, Moyo claimed there was nothing unusual about the disappearance, suggesting that even in the UK, people disappear without trace.
“That’s very sad,” Moyo said.
“We do not know who took him and perhaps those who took him and God knows where he is. But the fact that one person is missing is obviously of concern to the government and our position on that is very clear.
“However, people disappear everyday and you mention one person but in fact we have quite some porous borders. A lot of people cross borders without our knowing. In the UK, people disappear everyday even those who would have been making public statements against the government there, they disappear, cross the borders and end up in Syria, with the British government not knowing.”
Kumbirai Mafunda, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesperson, said they expected government to be serious about the safety of its citizens.
“We expect the government to be taking serious concern and working to reassure and guarantee the safety of Zimbabwean citizens,” he said.
“The energy and focus of the government should be on locating this missing citizen and help bring answers to Dzamara’s agonising family and two children Nokutenda and Nenyasha.”
Jestina Mukoko, national director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, said Moyo’s comments were insensitive.
“I am just appalled at the way Jonathan Moyo responded to the Dzamara question,” Mukoko said.
“We are looking at a family looking for answers to whether he is still alive or not. We are hearing from lawyers that the reports that are coming through from the police are not worth the paper they are written on.”
Lovemore Chinoputsa, MDC Youth Assembly secretary, slammed Moyo at Dzamara’s house where members of the Youth Assembly had visited the missing activist’s wife Sheffra.
“We are saddened and disappointed at Moyo’s remarks on BBC that Dzamara’s disappearance is a normal thing that happens in any country,” Chinoputsa said.
“We view the condescending remarks as a clear testimony that the government is not serious about searching for Dzamara. We know that the government has a lot of apparatus at its disposal that it can use to search for Dzamara and we are now convinced that they are not concerned about his disappearance.”
Two days before Dzamara’s abduction, he delivered a speech at an opposition rally in Harare, offering solidarity with the MDC for mass protests against the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.
“We are in no doubt as to the perpetrators of this abduction,” opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a news conference just after his abduction.
“We hold Mugabe and his regime responsible for this morbid and senseless act.
“The president — who is also the AU (African Union) and Sadc (Southern African Development Community) chair — cannot preside over a country where innocent citizens get abducted and disappear.”
The United States and European Union have both called on authorities to immediately investigate the disappearance.
Visiting US deputy assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Steven Feldstein said last week a positive review of the sanctions would depend on Harare “giving facts” regarding the missing activist.
“This to us is something that raises significant concerns and we have discussed with the government that they have to conduct a full and transparent investigation,” said the US envoy.
“We have had the allegations and the circumstances of the disappearance and I think it’s important that we have the facts as quickly as we can.
“We do not know what has happened to Mr Dzamara. What we know is that we are concerned when someone who has a common and primary human rights voice, who is representing the civil society in Zimbabwe, all of a sudden, disappears without any real answers.
“Our government takes serious the issue of human rights when it comes to diplomatic relations and development.”
Home Affairs deputy minister Ziyambi Ziyambi last week told senators that the police were still searching for Dzamara but there were no leads.
Ziyambi said the police were sending out appeals to anyone who might have any information around the whereabouts of Dzamara to come forward. Daily News