Harare, August 12, 2015 – For most Zimbabweans, 09 August passed as an ordinary day, while for some it was business as usual as they attended church services while others prepared to attend the annual national heroes commemorations to honour some men and women who sacrificed their lives to liberate the southern African country during the bush war waged in the late 80’s.
But for two children Nokutenda and Nenyasha, 09 August was a day of agonising as five months passed with no indications about the whereabouts of their missing father, Itai Dzamara. The pain of missing a loved one was also shared by Sheffra, the wife of the human rights campaigner and her broader family and colleagues.
Faced with a government that has elected to remain cold-hearted to the plight of the pro-democracy activist, the Dzamara family last Friday held a candlelight vigil in central Harare to demand the release of the missing rights activist.
Candles lit by Patson Dzamara, Sheffra and Nokutenda and Nenyasha, the rights activist’s children and Dirk Frey, Irvin Takavada and Charles Nyoni and Kumbirai Mafunda, friends of the missing Dzamara glowed on Friday at an emotional vigil to mark his 36th birthday held in Africa Unity Square, a central point for several historical protests organised by their father before he was disappeared on 09 March 2015.
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. His family hasn’t heard from him since.
Although his family including his wife said they feel powerless about the situation of their beloved family member, they refuse to give up hope.
“Although I am happy to have shared the same womb with such a phenomenal man, today is not a happy day. His birthday is a stark reminder to us that he is not here for us to share this time as a family. However, we remember Itai today and we celebrate his life even though he is still in the hands of evil men and women. We have faith that God is watching over him and pray His Will is to reunite us. It has been a surreal five months during which we have had to carry on with life without knowing Itai’s whereabouts or his circumstances. The physical difficulties of his absence are dwarfed by the emotional pain of dealing with this gap in our lives. We had never imagined he would be taken from us for so long, but despite our heavy hearts, we cling to hope. Surely the righteousness of his cause and the strength of his spirit will lead to his return,” Patson, a brother to the missing human rights activist said in a statement released Friday to mark his 36th birthday.
“As much as we as a family suffer from his absence more than anybody, we acknowledge that Itai’s disappearance has become a national issue, and we call on Zimbabweans, the very same people my brother struggled on behalf of, to join us in our outrage and pain. We say “Let Itai Dzamara be returned to us”. And more than that, we say “Let this never happen again in our country.” We continue to demand justice in the form of a no-holds-barred investigation that will locate and return Itai Dzamara,” added Patson.
Over the weekend, western governments reiterated their disappointment with the Zimbabwean authorities for not doing much in probing Dzamara’s whereabouts and challenged President Robert Mugabe’s administration to escalate its search for the missing prominent human rights activist.
“The United States remains deeply concerned about Mr. Dzamara’s whereabouts and wellbeing, and we are equally concerned by the apparent lack of progress by authorities in their investigation,” the US embassy in Harare said in a statement seen by Radio VOP.
The US government implored President Mugabe’s government to mobilise sufficient resources to investigate the circumstances surrounding Dzamara’s abduction.
“The United States places the protection of human rights at the center of our foreign policy. The United States stands together with Mr. Dzamara and the people of Zimbabwe in supporting their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We call for Mr. Dzamara’s immediate and safe return to his family and friends,” the US embassy said.
The European Union (EU) said it is deeply concerned about the continued lack of progress and called upon the government to meet its legal obligation of providing regular and thorough progress reports on the search for Dzamara as ordered by the High Court in March.
“The EU will continue to watch progress on this case closely. The protection of human rights is a pillar of all our bilateral relationships,” reads part of a statement issued by the EU.
Prior to the abduction, Dzamara together with his Occupy Africa Unity Square movement protestors had since last year been staging anti-government protests calling for President Robert Mugabe to step down from power for mismanaging the once prosperous southern African country.
The troubled southern African country is currently grappling with an agonising economic crisis including massive jobs losses which critics say is proving to be the foe for President Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party