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Analysis

Itai Dzamara: Lament over govt’s crocodile tears

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ED ignores Dzamara’s wife 

SEVEN years after Itai Dzamara was abducted and disappeared, the government has remained aloof, even ignoring a 2015 High Court order, a petition and global calls for action in a clear indication that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime is not keen on respecting human rights and the rule of law.

MOSES MATENGA

The late former Preside nt Robert Mugabe was the first to ignore calls for the state to account for Dzamara, but when Mnangagwa came into power via a military coup in 2017 on the promise of a reformist agenda, expectations were high he would live up to his claim that “I’m a listening President”.

On human rights, Mnangagwa has not taken a different path from his late mentor.

Dzamara, a pro-democracy activist and journalist, was disappeared on 9 March 2015 when Mnangagwa was Vice-President and also in charge of the Justice ministry.

“What we have seen from the government so far is just a pretense of investigations,” Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesperson and Dzamara’s close friend Kumbirai Mafunda told The NewsHawks this week.

“The High Court in March 2015 ordered that the police should give fortnightly updates to the Dzamara family or their lawyers who are the ZLHR. What we have seen since then is that there has been a case of submitting whitewashed reports. We have seen that in the initial stages the government tried to comply and submit reports, but later on we have not seen that compliance,” Mafunda said.

The government is accused of being insincere and in contempt of a court order.

“We last had submission of these reports to the lawyers representing the family several years ago so we have seen the government conducting what I can call a pretense of investigations. It has not complied with a court order as ordered by Justice (David) Mangota in 2015,” Mafunda added.

“We are calling upon the government to commit and allocate sufficient resources to be dedicated to investigate the circumstances surrounding Itai Dzamara’s abduction. We also ask the government to commit resources, human resources to ascertain what happened or what is happening to him. The government has an obligation to ensure that those responsible for the disappearance of Itai Dzamara are brought to justice.”

Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the state must account for Dzamara and avail him dead or alive as hands were pointing to its involvement in his abduction.

“Itai was abducted with all indications showing complicit of the state and there have been levels of evidence provided that shows involvement of state agents,” Mukundu said.

“The state has to redeem itself and admit like what they have done in some cases including on the case of Jestina Mukoko. In the case of Itai, what the family, friends and the people of Zimbabwe need is for the state to account. If they tortured and killed him, they need to produce his body and apologise.

“His case is confirmation of levels of impunity in Zimbabwe from the days of Gukurahundi up to now with no accountability by the state. The call remains that the state account for Itai dead or alive and that demand remains relevant today as it was then.”

Dzamara was abducted in a barbershop where he had gone for a haircut in Harare’s Glen View suburb.

He was never to be seen after suspected state agents pounced and accused him of stocktheft before bundling him into an unmarked vehicle and speeding off.

This came two days after he was called onto the stage by the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to address thousands of party supporters in Highfield where he was vocal on the need to oust Mugabe.

South African-based analyst Kefas Mtimande said: “The state has never been sincere in addressing cases of enforced disappearance the country has recorded, including hundreds that still remain unaccounted for after Gukurahundi.”

“The tragedy of all this is those in power are stringing people along, hoping they will age and die with records and memory, with no one to account for the injustice.  If the state was sincere, we would by now have seen those implicated in cases of abductions, murder and torture being brought to book.

“Instead, we have seen them being rewarded with lofty public positions with some being made in charge of the very state institutions that should be pursuing justice. Look no further than the President himself, who to date is still to respond to allegations he was one of the masterminds of Gukurahundi and other heinous crimes against humanity,” he added.

“Zimbabwe is a big crime scene with the very same criminals leading the investigations.”

In his absence, Dzamara in 2020 lost a brother and pro-democracy activist Patson to colon cancer amid suspicion that he was poisoned to silence him for persistently and consistently demanding answers.

Patson was a vocal activist who also engaged in solo demonstrations, including one during Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium in 2016 when he evaded security to wave a placard in front of the then feared Mugabe, demanding answers on his brother’s whereabouts.

That same year, Patson also held a one-man demonstration at Parliament, but nothing came of it.

“I will never be silent until Itai Dzamara is accounted for. I will never be silent until Zimbabwe is fixed,” Patson’s placard at Parliament read in part.

At the Independence Day celebrations, his placard read: “Independent but not free. Where is my brother Itai?”

In both cases, he was arrested and briefly detained by the police.

He died with lots of unanswered questions.

Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa said the state must be held accountable for Dzamara’s disappearance.

“It’s now seven years since he was abducted and has never been seen or accounted for. We hold the state accountable and demand answers,” Chamisa said.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said enforced disappearance was a human rights violation and the state must account for the missing citizen.

“The government of Zimbabwe must account for the whereabouts of Itai Dzamara. Enforced disappearance is a serious human rights violation,” the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said.

Several of the issues Dzamara was clamouring for was the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec). A placard he wielded while leading a demonstration at Zec’s Mahachi Quantum building, carried a stark message: “No election before truly independent Zec.”

Another placard he displayed in Harare’s iconic Africa Unity Square demanded Mugabe’s resignation.

“Failed Mugabe must step down,” one of the placards read.

Dzamara’s wife Sheffra was recently quoted as saying she remained traumatized over her husband’s abduction but promised to soldier on in getting answers.

“Every day l think about him. I carry a lot of hurt and pain in my heart. I want answers and no one is giving me [any],” she was quoted as saying.

Pastor Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag campaign took to microblogging site Twitter, saying: “It’s been seven years since brave Itai Dzamara was abducted by the Zanu PF regime. Itai stood up to the dictator by himself when nobody would do it — they snatched him. Till today Itai is still missing but his courage lives on.”

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