THE government’s deafening silence following the disappearance of human rights activist Itai Dzamara over four months ago will strengthen suspicions that the authorities know what happened to him.
Dzamara was seized from a Harare hair salon in broad daylight in March and has not been heard from ever since. There are growing fears that he would never be found alive given Zimbabwe’s dark history of abductions. Several prominent people have disappeared without trace since independence. They include victims of the government’s Gukurahundi military campaign in Matabeleland and Midlands in the 1980s and other opponents of President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
Some like human rights activist Jestina Mukoko were fortunate to be released alive by their abductors. It was proven that the State was responsible for Mukoko’s disappearance and torture, hence the government became the first suspect when Dzamara was abducted.
The outspoken activist disappeared soon after addressing an MDC-T rally in Harare where he called for Mugabe’s immediate resignation for his role in the collapse of the economy and other rights violations. Prior to that, Dzamara had been leading daily protests at Africa Unity Square calling for the country’s leader to step-down and at one time was left for dead by assailants who are yet to be brought to justice.
Police appeared reluctant to investigate his disappearance until they were forced to do so by the courts. The High Court ordered the police and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to find Dzamara and report their findings to relevant authorities on a regular basis.
There is still nothing to suggest that the Zimbabwe Republic Police and CIO are doing their job to unravel the mysterious disappearance. Dzamara’s evil abductors had the courage to do the heinous crime because others before them were left to literally get away with murder.
However, Zimbabweans at the weekend demonstrated that they would not be silenced forever as their rights are trampled upon by an insensitive government. Thousands attended a prayer meeting in Harare to pile pressure on Mugabe’s regime to guarantee the safety of all citizens and release Dzamara.
The government should be regularly updating the nation on progress being made to find the missing activist to allay fears it has something to hide. Saturday’s prayer meeting brought together opposition political parties, civil society and ordinary people who are concerned about the lack of respect for human rights.
The involvement of churches is particularly encouraging because they are a critical voice in keeping government excesses in check. The Catholic Church played a leading role in exposing the Gukurahundi atrocities much to the chagrin of Mugabe and his government.
Dzamara’s disappearance should remain on top of the news agenda for media institutions that are committed to protect human rights and should be of concern to all political parties interested in fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe. Those holding the activist would soon realise that Zimbabweans can no longer tolerate their Stone Age tactics to stifle freedom of expression.
The international community is interested in the Dzamara story and the government cannot wish it away. Only the truth would set the authorities free.