Harare, April 13, 2015 – Lawyers representing the wife of missing human rights activist, Itai Dzamara, have rejected a whitewashed report submitted by the police claiming to be probing the circumstances that led to the abduction of the freelance journalist.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) last week furnished the Registrar of the High Court with a “fortnightly update of investigations” they claimed to have conducted in a bid to locate and determine the whereabouts of the missing Dzamara.
In their one page “report”, the ZRP claimed that it had started a probe to try and locate the human rights activist who has been missing since early March when he was abducted by some unidentified men near his residence in Harare’s Glen Norah suburb.
“Police investigations have since commenced as to unearth circumstances surrounding the disappearances of Itayi Dzamara,” reads part of the police update written by Assistant Commissioner Crispen Makedenge, the Officer Commanding ZRP CID Law and Order Division.
Makedenge claimed that the ZRP had complied with the High Court order by issuing press statements in both the print and electronic media appealing for any information in locating Dzamara.
“Through these publications police have communicated with the outside world appealing for any information that might assist in his location. Police are in constant contact with the Lawyers for Human Rights in an endeavor to locate the missing person. Police investigations are still in progress and you will be advised of any progress or new developments,” Makedenge added.
However, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) whose members are representing Sheffra, Dzamara’s wife on Monday disputed the contents of the police report.
ZLHR charged that the ZRP had just released the purportedly report into the abduction of the pro-democracy activist in a bid to find a way out of contempt of court proceedings which it had initiated early this month for failing to comply with a High Court order obliging them to report on progress they have made in searching for Dzamara.
“…it is just a letter containing five-paragraphs addressed to the Director of Legal Services at the Police General Headquarters and prepared by Assistant Commissioner Crispen Makedenge, the Officer Commanding ZRP CID Law and Order Division. Lawyers charge that the update is totally insufficient and cannot be considered as a report because it doesn’t contain crucial specifics of a police probe including details of people whom the ZRP officers interviewed during the purported investigations which they carried out,” ZLHR said in a statement seen by Radio VOP.
Dzamara’s wife recently instituted contempt of court proceedings against Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Central Intelligence Organisation Director-General Happyton Bonyongwe and the State Security Minister seeking an order to imprison them for three months for failing to comply with a High Court order obliging them to report on progress they have made in searching for the missing human rights defender.
The contempt of court proceedings, which were filed in the High Court early this month were a follow up to the habeas corpus application filed early last month by human rights lawyers to compel whoever is holding Dzamara to bring him before the court so as to determine if he should really be in detention.
Sheffra, through her lawyer Charles Kwaramba of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners, who are members of ZLHR, wants Mohadi, Chihuri and Bonyongwe to be imprisoned for 90 days for disobeying a lawful court order issued by High Court Judge Justice David Mangota directing them to brief lawyers on progress and cooperate with them in their efforts to conduct the investigations as a team.
In the application for contempt of court Sheffra charged that Mohadi, Chihuri and Bonyongwe were guilty of contempt of court after they intentionally disobeying a court order by not reporting any progress of the search for Dzamara as required of them by Justice Mangota.
Justice Mangota ordered Mohadi, Chihuri, Bonyongwe and the State Security Minister to dispatch a team of police detectives to work closely and in conjunction with lawyers appointed by ZLHR to search for the freelance journalist at all such places as may be within their jurisdiction in terms of the law and report progress of such search to the Registrar of the High Court by 1600 hours every Friday fortnightly until his whereabouts have been determined.
But in her application, Sheffra argued that the respondents had not complied with the provisional order and hence Dzamara’s fundamental rights including the right to life; to the protection of the law; to access to relatives, family and friends; to access to his lawyers; to freedom of movement and association, remain under threat with each day that passes without him being found.
Failure to locate Dzamara, Sheffra said, makes the need for Mohadi, Chihuri and Bonyongwe to comply with the provisional order extremely urgent.
Sheffra said the respondents must account for every minute that goes by because as the State, they have a duty to protect citizens.
Dzamara, an iconic figure in Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy movement was abducted early last month by some unidentified men who were travelling in a white twin cab vehicle with a blurred registration number plate from a barber shop, where he was having a haircut in Harare’s high density suburb of Glenview. He has remained missing since then.