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Culture of abductions must fall

It is disheartening that the iniquitous culture of abductions continues to ravage Zimbabwe long after the country is now a purported fully-fledged democracy.

Guest Column: Learnmore Zuze

It is disheartening that the iniquitous culture of abductions continues to ravage Zimbabwe long after the country is now a purported fully-fledged democracy. A few days before the MDC demonstration on August 16 2019, human rights activist Tatenda Mombeyarara was abducted at his Chitungwiza home and assaulted by masked men. Immediately after this, Mufakose MDC youth leader Blessing Kanotunga was abducted in a matter related to a workshop held in Maldives. Then, there was the abduction and subsequent inhuman treatment of comedienne Samantha Kureya in connection with her satirical skits.

As we speak, it is reported that the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) Peter Magombeyi has been abducted by unknown masked men. Doctors have, of late, refused to return to work citing incapacitation as their salaries are simply pathetic, among other things. It is mind-blowing that no arrests have ever been made in connection with these systematic abductions.

The leads are there to see for anyone who cares to look for them. The abductions have been systematically carried out by masked men with guns. The onus should be on the government to protect its citizens from those who abduct and torture people.

In fact, it is one of the essential duties of the government, constitutionally speaking. Talk is rife in government circles that there is a third force behind the abductions but, again, it defies logic why no one within this so-called third force has been apprehended.

Abducting a citizen of this country constitutes a crime. Such crimes cannot continue to happen with such alarming frequency without any lead being found.

The incessant abductions cast a colossal dark shadow on Zimbabwe’s image in the eyes of the international community. Abductions are chief among the reasons why America, the world’s most influential administration, slaps countries with sanctions.

That Zimbabwe has failed to put a leash on the culture of abductions can only mean one thing: All the efforts and energies being expended on re-engagement are just but a waste of time and resources.

Zimbabweans were desperately hoping for a shift in fortunes insofar as human rights violations are concerned following the ouster of the late former President Robert Mugabe who was deemed an oppressor and a violator of fundamental human freedoms.

The continuation of forced disappearances of people, in particular, human rights activists and union leaders bears testament to the living fact that the economic fortunes of the nation of Zimbabwe won’t be changing anytime soon.

A country cannot cry for international acceptance when it expresses lethargy on fixing such basic fundamental rights as human freedoms. There is a robust correlation between stunted economic growth and human rights violations.

A country whose human rights record comes across as despicable is sure to struggle economically. It is as simple as that; International credit lines are deliberately cut. Sanctions will continue to hit hard. Financial institutions such as Bretton Woods Financial Institute will hold back and all democratic nations will stand aloof.

It is not enough to express “concern over a spate of abductions”, but action must be seen to be taken. It is for the same reason that the South African government is lampooned for paying lip service to something as serious as xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals.

The onus rests with the government to end this culture of abductions. A nation may scream all it wants; travel all it cares, but surely there can be no economic revival in the face of poor human rights observance. It is actually paradoxical that a government whose human rights record is tattered would be blowing taxpayers income in re-engagement efforts.

But the logical question comes: What exactly is meant to be achieved by forcefully taking away someone’s freedom? What purpose do abductions serve? Is it the logic that when a person is abducted, it instils fear in those who may want to dissent? Do abductions have the intended effect or the opposite?

In my humble view, abductions achieve the opposite of their intended objective. The high-profile abduction case in recent times is that of fierce Mugabe critic, Itai Dzamara.

Dzamara was known for his one-man demonstrations against Robert Mugabe’s government in Harare. He was forthright and indefatigable as he solidly called for Mugabe to resign from power. Irritated by his incessant demonstrations, Dzamara was abducted by masked men in an unmarked white double cab in 2015 in Glen View and, to date, nothing is known of his fate although a plethora of theories abound.

Many in the struggle for a better country identify with him to date.

Someone may need to advise these behind this spate of abductions that the nefarious actions are helping fuel negative light on Zimbabwe.

Abductions, by their nature are archaic and the sooner they are dropped the better. Indeed the culture of abductions must fall.

 Learnmore Zuze is a legal practitioner and writes here in his personal capacity