YESTERDAY — March 9 — marked the second anniversary of the disappearance of Itai Dzamara — a journalist-turned-activist — who had started an offbeat campaign under the Occupy Africa Unity Square banner to mobilise for the removal of President Robert Mugabe.
Editor’s Memo: dumisani muleya
Dzamara’s move was unusual and typically rather shocking.
While many dismissed him as a bit of an oddball, clearly Mugabe’s regime didn’t. It had learnt some lessons from the Arab Spring uprisings; that even a vendor can spark off a revolt against government and lead to a series of revolutions across a whole region. Nothing thus could be taken for granted.
So on March 9, two years ago, Dzamara was seized and forced into an unmarked vehicle by unknown assailants. Since his enforced disappearance, he has never been seen again.
The rather clunky term, enforced disappearance, suggests people are grabbed by state agents from the streets or from their homes. Usually state agents deny it, or say nothing about it. It is a crime under international law.
In Dzamara’s case, he has not been released and his fate remains unknown. While nobody among the ordinary people knows his whereabouts, many now think he has been killed and the killers might be roaming the streets.
In such circumstances, victims are frequently tortured before being killed. The killers often think they are safe because they know their families have no idea where they are and chances are no one will dare speak out. Even if victims escape death and are eventually released, physical and psychological scars stay with them for a long time.
Jestina Mukoko is a case in point. In fact, there are hundreds or thousands of victims of state terror in this country.
From Gukurahundi to Dzamara, Zimbabwe has a long list of enforced disappearances and killings with impunity, which makes it one of the most authoritarian and repressive states in the region.
This leaves the regime’s leaders, mainly those operating the security apparatus, dripping with blood on their hands.
Besides, this symbolises great and ubiquitous betrayal of the people by Mugabe. His sacrifices and heroics as a nationalist and liberation struggle leader pale in comparison with the human rights abuses perpetrated by his regime and failure after independence. This means his legacy is brutal and devastating.
Many people, for better or worse, ask why the state by acts of commission or omission would have allowed Dzamara to be abducted and possibly killed as he was not a threat to government.
Well, he might not have been a threat at all, but he was setting a wrong precedent in the view of the regime.
So the terror machine had to be unleashed to silence him once and for all to send a clear and strong warning to other would-be political jihadists that their manoeuvres would not be tolerated.
Enforced disappearances by definition are used as a strategy to spread terror within society. Besides the feeling of insecurity and fear, they also have a chilling effect not just on close relatives of the disappeared, but also communities and society as a whole.
Some of us who worked with Dzamara — a Caps United and Manchester United fan — and spent time with him even outside work, remain shaken and deeply concerned about his fate. His family is still traumatised.
While authorities and police have claimed to be investigating the issue, their lack of enthusiasm and progress raises doubts about their intention and sincerity.
Authorities or at least some of them in the corridors of power should be held responsible for this. One way or another they know what happened to him.
This issue will not disappear. So government must stop playing politics and better investigate what actually happened.
This is not a political issue; it’s a human rights and justice matter.
Hence, authorities must mobilise the full extent of their capacity and resources to urgently investigate the case. No excuses on this must be tolerated by citizens.