Home » Judicial » Two Weeks On, Still No Clue On Missing Dzamara

IT’S a scorching afternoon in Harare’s high density suburb of Glen View, about 16 km south-west of the capital. Nearly every corner is a hive of activity with makeshift stalls littered with vendors selling anything from airtime to cheap food items. Hordes of unemployed youths sit aimlessly under trees drinking the opaque Chibuku brew.

Right here is the place where defiant pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara was abducted two weeks ago by unidentified armed men. One of the last few people to see the activist being abducted, a stout barber, is a fear-stricken man and unwilling to discuss the subject.

The tension is palpable as one middle-aged man in the barbershop says, “It’s sad the man is yet to be found. He was always jovial each time he came here and we thought it was simply an arrest.”

Drawing my chair closer to the talkative gentleman who seemed drunk, I sought to understand whether there was an attempt by the crowd to save Dzamara at the time of the abduction.

“My friend, it happened so fast that most people only saw a white truck taking off at high speed. The big men (abductors) overpowered him claiming he had to show them where he hid a stolen cow,” he said.

“People could not intervene when the men accused him of theft,” he added.

Uncomfortable with my intense prodding, the garrulous man became cautious. “Mdara nyaya iyi maone, vanhu vese ava vakazviona zvichiitika but hazvitaurike (my friend discussing this story is risky everyone here saw it happening but they won’t dare speak),” he said, not keen to reveal much.

Such is the extreme apprehension that has gripped the high density suburb of Glen View following Dzamara’s disappearance two weeks ago.

Itai Peace Dzamara, an ardent opponent of President Robert Mugabe’s rule has not been seen since the abduction and the incident has struck fear in the hearts of eyewitnesses in the neighbourhood who remain suspicious and unwilling to shed light on what they saw.

Dzamara, a former journalist, launched a campaign late last year dubbed ‘Occupy Africa Unity Square (OAUS)’ where, together with a few compatriots, he demanded the resignation of the country’s 91-year old ruler, blaming him for Zimbabwe’s deteriorating economic situation.

Unlike the current crop of opposition politicians, Dzamara had not only spoken, but he had acted. He led anti-government crusades each afternoon from the city centre around lunchtime, blowing whistles, halting motorists and proclaiming the government’s failures.

On one occasion the group moved around with placards inscribed ‘Failed Mugabe Must Step Down’. His tiny group insisted that the ruling Zanu PF party had promised the masses two million new jobs while campaigning for the 2013 elections yet companies continue to shut down with workers being thrown onto the streets.

Left for dead … Itai Dzamara after he was beaten up by police in central Harare

Growing discontent

The economic situation has continued to decline, with the recent riots at Chikurubi prison in Harare and the violent strike at the University of Zimbabwe viewed as indicators of growing discontent. A recent parliamentary thematic committee report revealed that prisoners are not getting adequate food adding that the little they get is not balanced.

Dzamara’s small but resilient gathering had its fair share of battles with the police since last year. In November, he was brutally attacked and left for dead by the police during a demonstration.

“I shall always uphold and walk on truth and objectivity, as I continue to make my modest contribution towards searching for a way out of our national crisis,” wrote Dzamara after the vicious attack.

His most defining moment was when he pulled a shocker by handing over a letter demanding Mugabe’s resignation at the president’s office. Today, less than six months after launching the Occupy Africa Unity Square campaign, Dzamara has gone missing and no one has a clue as to the man’s whereabouts.

This has triggered a wave of calls by opposition parties and the civic society demanding his release unharmed. There have been calls, although subdued, for demonstrations against the abduction, with Dzamara’s sidekick Job Sikhala rumoured to be leading in organizing the demonstrations.

The EU and the US have also expressed their concern on the issue. “The United States urges the Zimbabwean authorities to mobilize their full resources to locate Mr Dzamara and investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Dzamara’s disappearance,” said US state department spokesperson Jeff Rathke.

Opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has placed the blame for his abduction on the government stating that, “we are in no doubt as to the perpetrators of this crime.” Some critics, however, blame Tsvangirai for not doing enough to call the world’s attention to the case. There is also a general consensus among opposition groups that state security agents are behind the abduction.

Blaming the government … Morgan Tsvangirai visits Dzamara’s family

Dzamara’s family has rubbished theories in some media outlets that he engineered his own abduction to gain political mileage. “We perceive a bigger hand in this and we unequivocally reject the notion that this is a grandstanding effort masterminded by him and his colleagues,” said Patson Dzamara, brother to Itai.

Itai Dzamara is not the first opposition activist to disappear in Zimbabwe’s political history. Tichaona Chiminya, Talent Mabika, Better Chokururama and Tonderai Ndira are some of the well-known opposition activists who were abducted only for their bodies to be discovered in mortuaries. Tsvangirai said his party feared “the worst” as previous activists who were reported kidnapped were later found dead.

The demand for Dzamara’s release however, seems to be gathering momentum. Recently Zimbabweans besieged the country’s embassy in London demanding his release. His young family and his teary wife have appealed to anyone with information on the whereabouts of the fiery activist to notify them while Zimbabwean pro-democracy groups have vowed to fight for his freedom.

Elsewhere, Zimbabweans in Europe have also vowed to lobby for the shutting down of all the country’s embassies to press for his release but the dreadful question remains: Will Itai Dzamara be found alive?

Source : New Zimbabwe