Harare, April 4, 2015 – High ranking officials in President Robert Mugabe’s government face imprisonment for disobeying a High Court order directing them to show commitment and report progress to human rights lawyers in the search for missing pro-democracy activist and freelance journalist Itai Dzamara.
Dzamara’s wife, Sheffra, on Thursday instituted contempt of court proceedings against Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Central Intelligence Organisation Director-General Happyton Bonyongwe and the State Security Minister 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 are 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 lawyers led by Charles Kwaramba of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners, who are members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, wants Mohadi, Chihuri and Bonyongwe to be imprisoned for 90 days for disobeying a lawful court order issued on 13 March 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 filed on Thursday, Sheffra charged that Mohadi, Chihuri and Bonyongwe were guilty of contempt of court after intentionally disobeying a court order by not reporting any progress of the search for Dzamara as required of them by Justice Mangota.
Last month, 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 Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights 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 as respondents Mohadi, Chihuri, Bonyongwe and the State Security Minister 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.
“First, they have not dispatched a team of police detectives to work with our lawyers in investigating my husband’s whereabouts. Instead, it has only been the lawyers who have repeatedly gone to police stations to inquire on the progress of the matter and try to establish my husband’s whereabouts. In other words there has been no working together because the police have not cooperated with our lawyers in their efforts to conduct the investigations as a team,” reads part of Sheffra’s affidavit.
Sheffra said the respondents must account for every minute that goes by because as the State, they have a duty to protect citizens.
On Thursday, Australia became the third country to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s administration to do everything in its power to find Dzamara after the US and Canadian governments which recently urged Mugabe as chairperson of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to “demonstrate the utmost respect for fundamental rights protected under the constitution” by locating the missing Dzamara.
The 35 year-old 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.