By Richard Chidza
President Robert Mugabe faces a possible UN backlash over the inexplicable disappearance of journalist-cum-political activist Itai Dzamara three months ago, The Standard can exclusively reveal.
Foreign Affairs ministry officials told The Standard recently that Mugabe has since ordered the opening of a file on Dzamara following pressure from the UN which wants answers.
“The Dzamara issue is giving people sleepless nights. There are a lot of theories about his disappearance but the problem for the government now is that the UN has demanded answers,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
“Some countries, particularly in the West are agitating for the issue to be discussed at the next meeting of the Security Council and General Assembly.”
According to the official, there has been a flurry of communication between UN and Zimbabwean officials with the world body demanding answers on Dzamara’s whereabouts.
“They have demanded answers and the government at one time in a letter claimed Dzamara had been abducted in an MDC-T vehicle.
However, that explanation was rejected by the UN because government could not explain how that information was obtained and what happened after the abduction,” the Standard was told.
While Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha flatly denied there had been any communication between Zimbabwean authorities and UN officials, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) official in Harare confirmed it.
“It is true there has been communication between the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and the Zimbabwe High Commissioner in Geneva [Switzerland]. That is the channel of communication. I am not quite certain about the nature [of the conversation] but that there have been some discussions about the issue, I have no doubt,” said the official.
But Bimha denied there had been any discussion over the matter.
“As far as I am concerned, there has not been any communication regarding that matter,” he said.
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone was unreachable.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chairperson Elasto Mugwadi seemed to confirm that indeed authorities in Harare had been taken to task by the global body over Dzamara’s disappearance.
“Not really directly but there have been discussions between us and the UN representatives in Harare and the UNDP officials in the country. The problem is there has not been a breakthrough on the case and it is difficult to say anything beyond what we said in our appeal that he should be released if he is in the custody of the state,” Mugwadi.
“However, the State also seemed not to know of his whereabouts. The UN, we expect, would have spoken directly with the relevant ministry and I remember in one of our meetings we suggested they also discuss with the police as regards the court order that required authorities to report progress on the investigation fortnightly.”
He added: “We suggested that they take the issue directly with those that have the obligation to comply with the High Court order.”
There have been suggestions that the government has been dragging its feet to the extent of being in “contempt of court” by failing to meet court demands to provide the two-week updates.
Efforts to get comment from the UN deputy regional representative Kathrine Liao in Pretoria, South Africa drew blanks.
Information minister Jonathan Moyo in an interview with BBC recently claimed Dzamara could have slipped through the country’s borders into another country, just like British citizens ended up in Syria despite tight security. Moyo said the issue of the activist’s disappearance “was obviously of concern to the government. People disappear every day… We have quite porous borders.”
Sources also claimed Zimbabwe’s embassies across the globe and in particular in Britain have been picketed over the activist’s disappearance and government’s alleged lacklustre approach to finding him.
“Our embassies are under a lot of pressure, particularly in South Africa and the UK. There are demonstrations over Dzamara on a daily basis and the situation is bad in Britain because police in that country have given the demonstrators the greenlight to do as they please,” said the foreign affairs official.
A visiting US diplomat Steven Feldstein recently said the Americans wanted “the facts” on Dzamara’s disappearance as soon as possible.
Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru — expelled from government and the ruling party on charges of plotting to assasinate Mugabe — has also weighed in and urged her former boss to “concentrate on finding Dzamara” and focus on more pressing issues than on imaginary plots to kill him.
Dzamara, a journalist turned democracy activist known in Zimbabwe mostly for his “Occupy Africa Unity Square” campaign against Mugabe’s government, was allegedly abducted by suspected State security agents on March 9 after spending months agitating for the 91-year-old leader’s ouster. The Standard