One of Zimbabwe’s leading human rights activist and journalist, Itai Dzamara is still at large after being abducted in the capital, Harare earlier this week.
A number of governments, civil society groups and ordinary citizens blame the ruling Zanu PF for Dzamara’s disappearance.
The United States and European Union Council have called on the Harare administration to assist with locating or releasing him as there are growing fears in the country’s mainstream opposition ranks and civil society that he might have been killed.
Dzamara was the leading face behind Zimbabwe’s ongoing Occupy Africa Unity Square movement which called for President Robert Mugabe’s resignation.
The movement accuses Zimbabwe’s 91-year-old President of presiding over a failed state, failing to create jobs and bring about economic transformation.
University of Johannesburg researcher, Gideon Chitanga says the abduction of Dzamara was a reversion to impunity and intimidation by Zanu PF.
“The disappearance of this activist raises serious concerns on the side of the state with respect to upholding freedoms of expression, association speech and human rights. Zanu PF is sending a message to its critics that it will not treat them with kid gloves,” said Chitanga.
Nqobani Ndlovu, one of the country’s leading journalists said the abduction of a fellow journalist by alleged ‘state agents’, demonstrated that press freedom in Zimbabwe is yet to be enjoyed.
“Journalists have never been free, as the same harsh laws that have been used to criminalise their work are still there. The licencing of radio stations linked to the government or Zanu PF shows that government is not committed in ensuring media diversity.”
Human rights activist, Blessing Vava said it was very sad and unfortunate and somehow shows that the Zimbabwean government cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens.
“Of course the case of Dzamara is one of the many tactics Zanu PF has been employing to thwart any critical voice of its misrule. The whole episode then shows us that Zimbabwe is far from being a truly democratic state,” said Vava.
Rashweat Mukundu from Zimbabwe Democracy Institute said a key concern is that the ZANU PF government has never dismantled the infrastructure of violence and resorts to intimidation, kidnappings and torture when its rule is challenged.
“The Itai Dzamara case is one in many cases were citizen civil rights are trampled with impunity. As the succession politics intensifies in ZANU PF and the party loses its grip on meeting citizen expectations we will likely see more cases of threats, abductions and torture,” said Dzamara.
“We may not reach the scale of 2008, but we are certainly regressing and there is no intention on the part of ZANU PF to resolve these issues. Violence is the weapon and strategy of choice by ZANU PF in maintaining its grip on power.”
Gabriel Shumba, a leading rights defender said, tt was once again indicative of the fact that the leopard will never change his spots, even if he is dressed up in African Union legitimacy.
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“In fact, President Mugabe’s gvt has nothing but disdain for SADC, African Union and democractic institutions. Dzamara’s is not the only case of enforced dissappearances. Jsetinah Mukoko, Patrick Nabanyama, Job Sikhala and myself included are some of the very few examples,” said Shumba.
“There is need for a drastic rethink on Zimbabwe, a very serious strategic shift from all stakeholders. Otherwise it is foolhardy to expect any change for the better.”