They can run but can’t hide

LAST week this paper carried a disclosure of yet another person, Karimboni Nyemba, who disappeared under political circumstances in Chiredzi in May and has not been seen or heard from ever since.

Zimbabwe Independent Comment

This incident occurred barely two months after the abduction and enforced disappearance of journalist-cum-political activist Itai Dzamara in March. Despite the exposure of the Nyemba incident, there has not been any public statement by government authorities or agencies. There is instead deafening silence, signifying government’s uncaring and even callous attitude.

In the Dzamara case, which attracted worldwide attention, government has remained indifferent and sometimes downright insensitive. Apart from making cold-blooded statements, government has done nothing serious to resolve the Dzamara mystery.

Police efforts have been at best apathetic and lethargic, which betray authorities’ indifference and even hostility to the issue. It also reflects a deeply entrenched culture of lack of respect for human rights which has persisted from Independence in 1980; itself an extension of colonial abuses and impunity. Zimbabweans continue to be engulfed by massive violations of their social and economic rights. While the economy continues on a downward spiral, the state has been at the forefront of human rights abuses and impunity. During the past 35 years, Zimbabwe has been a bastion of human rights transgressions. People have been maimed, pushed into forced disappearances and killed during periods like Gukurahundi, violent elections and around other major political events. The likes of Rashiwe Guzha and army captain Edwin Nleya disappeared in the 1980s, never to be found. Politically-motivated hammerings and killings resurfaced after 2000.

And unsurprisingly the latest Amnesty International Report for the 2014/15 period paints a gloomy picture of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, with the government and its henchmen being fingered as the worst culprits.

“Violations of economic and social rights continued, including forced evictions in rural and urban areas. Mass job losses occurred as companies closed due to an unfavourable economic climate. Intra-party violence was recorded in the ruling Zanu-PF party and the main opposition party. There were reports of torture by the police,” the report says. In all this, Zimbabwe shows itself to be no better than other rogue states like Syria, where torture, abductions and enforced disappearances are the order of the day. Zimbabwe is nothing like what liberation struggle leaders and freedom fighters dreamt of. In fact, it’s a tragic mockery of their dream.

While the perpetrators of grievous human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, who are mainly state actors, can run, history of countries with a similar background shows such people cannot possibly hide forever.

One needs only look at examples of Nazi-era criminals in Germany and Europe, the Balkans, East Timor and the Rwandan genocide to see that perpetrators eventually get hunted down, prosecuted and punished. So Zimbabwean human rights violators and killers — some well-known — will also be held to account.