By Professor Matodzi
Harare, August 24, 2015 – The family of missing pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara, who went missing five months ago has appealed to President Robert Mugabe for help in tracing the human rights activist.
Dzamara, an iconic figure in Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy movement went missing in March after he was abducted by some unidentified men from a barber shop in Harare’s Glenview high density suburb and his family has not heard from him since.
Sheffra, the wife of the human rights campaigner who was accompanied by Patson Dzamara, a brother to the missing Occupy Africa Unity Square movement on Monday presented the petition addressed to Mugabe at Munhumutapa Building in central Harare which was accepted by some security aides at the nonagenarian official offices. The petition was also presented to Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of Parliament.
In the petition, the Dzamara family protested against the lethargic manner in which Zimbabwean authorities had handled the probe into the disappearance of Itai and Mugabe’s reaction.
“We are also concerned about the stance of your government, which we feel has adopted a relaxed approach towards investigating his disappearance,” reads part of the petition which was seen by Radio VOP.
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba recently enraged the Dzamara family and human rights groups such as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights after he declared that the ZANU PF leader will not pronounce himself on the missing activist because the case is “pre-eminently political and thus not worthy of his attention.” Charamba also suggested that Dzamara’s abduction and disappearance could have been staged by opposition political parties in a bid to spruce up their waning fortunes.
But the Dzamara family said it was concerned and disturbed by the attitude taken by Mugabe who has done little or nothing to ensure the protection of Itai’s fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in Section 90 (2) (c) of the Constitution.
“To date, you, as the Head of State and your government at large, have done little to assist us as a family to at least come to a place of closure. In fact, your spokesperson Mr George Charamba indicated that the issue of our missing family member is too small to bother you, a sentiment we felt was irresponsible, insensitive and unfortunate. Although Itai Dzamara openly opposed your government and some of its policies, his security and right to life remains a direct and unquestionable responsibility of your government. Ever since Itai Dzamara’s disappearance, a lot has transpired and various theories have been promulgated. However and in spite of that, I am of the view that by now some headway would have been made if everyone involved and concerned acted in good faith, especially the government through the responsible ministry, the Ministry of Home Affairs,” reads part of the petition.
The Dzamara family said it held Zimbabwe’s dreaded state security agents accountable for the disappearance of the prominent human rights campaigner as he was a marked man since last year when he petitioned Mugabe to step down for failing to run the country and was subjected to torture at the hands of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and by some ZANU PF party supporters.
“That, together with various activities he engaged in as an activist within the provisions of the Constitution presented him as a marked man by the state security system. He was beaten, arrested and received death threats by state security agents several times even though his activities were well within his Constitutional rights………. Section 49 of the Constitution states that every person has the right to personal liberty, which includes the right not to be deprived of their liberty arbitrarily or without just cause. Furthermore, the Constitution grants Itai Dzamara the right to personal security and protects him from all forms of violence from public or private sources.” the Dzamara family said.
The Dzamara family challenged Mugabe to immediately issue a statement over Itai’s disappearance and order whoever is keeping the rights activist in captivity to release him instantly.
The family also asked Mugabe to make a commitment and public announcement that the state security agents should intensify their efforts in uncovering the mystery surrounding Itai’s disappearance and making sure that he gets released immediately.
The government, the Dzamara family said, should take the responsibility to engage them and the nation at large the same way it engaged whoever was concerned when Cecil the Lion was killed last month.
“Itai Dzamara’s disappearance cannot be treated as not being important,” the family said.
Last month, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri called for the extradition of Walter Palmer, the American dentist who admitted killing Cecil the lion during a hunting session in Hwange so that he could face prosecution for violating Zimbabwe’s laws.
Muchinguri said while authorities had not apprehended Palmer, the government was seeking his extradition so that he can be “made accountable.”
In response to the government outcry on the slaughter of Cecil the lion, the Chinese government recently availed money and equipment worth over $2 million to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority which Muchinguri said would help reduce the extinction of some wildlife species in Zimbabwe.
The family of the missing activist said in the event that Mugabe chooses to ignore their demand they will soon roll out peaceful street demonstrations to protest against the forced disappearance of their family member.