By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, August 15, 2016 – PATSON Dzamara, brother to missing pro-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara, was at the weekend left fuming after the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) issued a statement condemning the family’s use of children during a recent Harare demo to commemorate 17 months after his disappearance.
UNICEF Chief of Communication, Zimbabwe, Victor Chinyama on Saturday released a statement denouncing the Dzamara family for roping in children during the demonstration.
“UNICEF in Zimbabwe deplores the use of children in the demonstrations that took place in Harare on Wednesday.
“Children are not political and should be sheltered at all times from situations that expose them to the risk of harm or violence.
“It is everybody’s duty to ensure that children are not used to advance a particular political cause. In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child should override all other considerations,” Chinyama said.
The statement was the international body’s first ever comment on anything to do with the plight of Itai, who was abducted by suspected state agents close to his Harare home in March last year after he had given the state sleepless nights through his anti-government protests.
However, the UNICEF statement touched a raw nerve with the Dzamara family, with Patson equally attacking the UN group for failure to condemn similar acts by politicians.
“I am perturbed by this statement. Of all organisations, I do not expect UNICEF to stoop this low. Something is wrong here,” Dzamara said on Sunday.
“I don’t remember UNICEF issuing a statement regarding Itai Dzamara’s abduction and its impact on his children. I don’t remember UNICEF ever issuing a statement whenever Mr. Mugabe or his wife force schools to be closed in order for children to attend their rallies.”
Dzamara insisted the children who took part in the commemorative event were the missing activist’s children and those from close relatives.
“This is crass hypocrisy on the part of UNICEF,” he continued.
“It’s unacceptable especially considering that this wasn’t even a demonstration but a commemoration. Itai’s children, our relatives and their friends had every reason and right to be a part of the commemoration. That was not in any way political.
“It’s unfortunate that even international organisations such as UNICEF are trying to normalise what is abnormal. There is nothing normal about police brutality which we witness being meted out against peaceful protestors especially considering the provisions of our constitution to assemble or demonstrate peacefully.
“Most children in Zimbabwe have experienced the impact of police brutality directly and indirectly. That is what UNICEF should be addressing not this ZANU PF produced hullabaloo.”
The inclusion of children in Wednesday’s demonstration has divided Zimbabweans with some saying the family was using them as human shields against anti-riot police.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira has also been forced to condemn the family for allegedly violation international instruments protecting children.