Govt must be sincere on Itai Dzamara

Ever since the new government took power in a military-assisted operation, one thing remains unclear, and it is its position regarding upholding and defending human rights, as demanded by the supreme law of the land, the Constitution. The Emmerson Mnangagwa administration has not done enough to convince the world that they are keen on improving human rights in this country.

By Learnmore Zuze

It is rather an insult to the intelligence to see the cosmetic attention being given to human rights. Human rights must be seen to be upheld, and not merely spoken about. While it is easy to forget, Itai Dzamara’s case remains a permanent dent on the government’s track record. It needs closure and not lip service.

A few weeks ago, Zimbabweans woke up to a message that was comical, if not extremely sad, and was in bad taste.

Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba addressed the nation awaiting information on the whereabouts of Dzamara. To say this was shocking might be an understatement as it came exactly 36 months after his painful abduction. One really wonders whether this was to appear concerned or just to quell growing concern over the matter since a new government had taken over.

The bulk of Zimbabweans have seen the anguish and horror endured by the Dzamara family after the forced disappearance of one of its own. For three years, small crowds have gathered at the Africa Unity Square on the day Dzamara was abducted by unknown men. Those who attended the first of such events can attest that his children are growing up and, by now, have a full grasp of what happened to their breadwinner.

His wife, ever in despair, has made passionate pleas with renewed vigour each time that, for once, one feels angry with those responsible for the heinous act. The level of desperation is such that the family just wants the government to “please say something on Dzamara”. Honestly, to come out and act as though the abduction occurred last week sounds insensitive to put it mildly.

It is three years since Dzamara was last seen. The pain to his family, as highlighted, can only be imagined. Dzamara disappeared during the reign of Robert Mugabe. Mugabe was never apologetic; never cared an inch about the disappearance of a citizen of the country he ruled. Mugabe never responded, actually stating, through his spokesman, that he was too busy for such a vital human rights issue.

It is against this backdrop that the new dispensation must be sincere in dealing with the Dzamara issue if it should be taken seriously. Honestly, we can’t have a whole spokesperson of a national police force, in all seriousness, coming out to request information on the whereabouts of a missing citizen 36 months after their disappearance. Surely, this smacks of insincerity.

While it is appreciated that Mugabe’s administration never cared about the matter, the new government can only alienate itself from the people by acting as though it didn’t know of Dzamara’s issue. The government mustn’t appear caring by simply verbalising meaningless rhetoric without following up.

The Dzamara issue must be treated with the seriousness that it deserves.

And turning to institutions, it must be placed on record that even during Mugabe’s rule, each one of us could have played a part in turning up the heat against the dictator. Various media outlets did their best. Some civic groups made noise. However, in my view, it must be a collective effort, including all and sundry, including the church. It must never have been the task of a few.

To an extent, I feel it is rather hypocritical for the church to stand aloof as it has done on the matter, yet, it is quick to wine and dine with alleged perpetrators of such crimes. With the exception of one or two religious groupings, the bulk of the mainstream churches have turned a blind eye to the despairing Dzamara family.

So fearful were Zimbabweans that not even a single church was reported to have sent aid in whatever form to the Dzamara family. It has been non-governmental organisations.

It is really disheartening to have a church that is fearful of politicians. Truth is truth regardless of whether Mugabe liked it or not. Even Mnangagwa must be told to his face that the Dzamara issue must be attended to. We can’t rush to talk of burying the past when it squarely affects this future.

At least the government should be seen to be assisting the family in a way. It can’t pretend that Mugabe’s rule had nothing to do with Dzamara’s disappearance. If the incumbent government is truly sincere about solving the Dzamara abduction, it must follow all leads and must act with the requisite sincerity.

But apart from the government, all national and independent bodies must act in unison. The truth has a way of coming out but above all, the government must be sincere and I mean really sincere, otherwise it is undoing itself by cosmetically addressing a problem of a humongous proportions. We have not heard any other statement following Charamba’s initial announcement and this displays lack of sincerity.

The government must be serious.

Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail:

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