MANY Zimbabweans are in a state of anxiety as they speculate on Itai Dzamara’s fate.
Dzamara, a political activist and journalist, has been missing since March 9 this year. It is strongly suspected that the activist was abducted by intolerant agents of the state.
By Masola wa Dabudabu
Dzamara was an audacious young man. This might have upset the zealous guys in dark glasses. He rose to a level of notoriety in the eyes of security agents when he attempted to deliver a letter he had written to President Robert Mugabe at his offices in Harare. The letter was imploring the President to quit office for failing to govern with distinction. Suffice to say, the letter was rejected by Mugabe’s minders.
As if an attempt to deliver the letter was not enough, Dzamara went on to beef up his prominence by staging sit-in campaigns at Africa Unity Square. The series of sit-ins, under the banner of Occupy Africa Unity Square, indeed attracted the attention of state machinery.
Security arms of the state viewed him and his colleagues as rebellious and capable of inciting public disorderliness. It was not surprising that he and his colleagues were subjected to a short-lived abduction by suspected agents of the state in December 2014. This first abduction could have been a warning or a precursor of things to come.
In Zimbabwean standards, Dzamara’s actions were unprecedented and plain bold. Never before in the history of Zimbabwe’s independence had a political nonentity risen to such prominence at such a short space of time.
The intelligence services had a lot of questions to ponder over; who was Dzamara working for? Who was he reporting to? What was his remit? Did he have local political affiliations? The state secret services would have agonised over these questions in efforts to uncover the real force behind Dzamara.
So, on that fateful March 9, Dzamara was allegedly abducted by unidentified persons at a barbershop. It is now four months since his disappearance from radar screens of ordinary people and still nothing has been heard of his whereabouts. By some dint of fortune, this unexplained disappearance has not gone unnoticed and unchallenged.
Ordinary people, opposition politicians, diplomats and the victim’s family members continue to demand that the activist be accounted for.
The disappearance has gathered so much local and international prominence. Western diplomats are even using it as an agenda item for the resumption of normal diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. The pressure is on Zimbabwe due to her desperation for the speedy restoration of normal diplomatic and trade ties with the West.
Since Zimbabwe is crying for the removal of special measures that restrict free trade and free travel between her and the EU, she has to be seen toeing the thorny line.
The pressure exerted by the EU and the US to the Zimbabwe government to find Dzamara is disorientating Mugabe and his train-load of apologists. Mugabe knows that Zanu-PF has presided over unexplained and unresolved disappearances of political opponents. He is aware that his security department employed abductions and disappearances as the preferred method of silencing his opponents and even got away with the practice.
Now the ball game has slightly changed. For the very first time Mugabe has to account for a citizen who went missing under suspicious circumstances. The pressure to deliver Dzamara is putting Mugabe and his government in a dilemma; the government is damned if it brings him dead or alive and it will still be damned if it fails to account for him.
The Zanu-PF government has come out of its shell of arrogance and decided to at least be seen acting responsibly. The police have put a tokenistic reward of $10 000 for information on Dzamara’s circumstances. The international pressure has put some urgency on the part of government.
Things are changing. Once upon a time the EU and the USA did not care who disappeared under a dark Central Intelligence Organisation cloud because Mugabe was their darling. Once upon another time Mugabe’s regime did not have to answer to anyone on suspected abductions and disappearances by agents of the state because no-one had the guts to ask.
This is a lot different from the recent disparaging remarks and “business as usual” approach by some high ranking Zanu PF members on Dzamara’s disappearance.
Most in Zanu PF used to be comforted by the knowledge that the party provided immunity to its members for carrying out abductions and disappearances of marked persons.
The Dzamara’s case has surprised many in Zanu PF as it has not fizzled into thin air like others before. There is a new approach to this crime, which is different from how similar cases were handled especially in the early 80s.
During then, state agents driving unmarked Land Rover vehicles would take suspected PF Zapu and dissident supporters in the glare of all present.
This was done in part fulfillment of political skirmishes between Zanu PF and PF Zapu. Most of those taken never returned. Thirty years on, no-one has been brought to account.
Dzamara’s case is changing everything. Hopefully more files of missing persons will be opened at least for official acknowledgement.