HARARE - Thousands of anguished Zimbabweans from all walks of life, including virtually all of the country’s opposition leaders, attended a solemn prayer rally in Harare yesterday to mark four months since journalist-turned-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara, was abducted in broad daylight by suspected State agents.
Among the attendees at the emotional rally, which was held at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, were opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mavambo/Kusile leader Simba Makoni, former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda and former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairperson Temba Mliswa.
Speaking at the rally, the fearless Sibanda called on all opposition political leaders to work together to remove President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF from power, while urging Zimbabweans at large to launch what he called “operation kubvisa zvisina basa (clean up operation)”.
“Let’s come and reason together. These words my brother and president of the MDC Tsvangirai and Amai Tsvangirai. Let’s come and reason together my sister from Matabelelalnd, Thokozani Khupe, all chiefs from Manicaland including Chief Makoni. God is saying come let’s reason together.
“We must forget about our political affiliations and co-operate. We cannot continue to be going for painkillers, painkillers and more painkillers. God does not take his people on a journey where there are no signs of success.
“We have the signs and we need to confront the problem not its symptoms. In Shona when they say maswera sei, the answer is taswera kana maswerawo, which means we are ok if you are fine as well. That means we cannot be fine when a colleague is not well, so tinoda operation yekubvisa zvisina kufanira,” (let’s remove rubbish) Sibanda said.
“Itai’s name gives us directions. Itai izvozvo Dzamara takunda (Do as such until we are victorious). It is time to wake up from our sleep, forget about our political parties and come together as Zimbabweans to pursue the national agenda,” he added to wild applause.
Tsvangirai described the prayer session as a special occasion as it had offered him the opportunity to share the stage with Sibanda, adding that he had never imagined that this would ever happen.
“Today we have been brought together by Dzamara who chose principle over opportunism and that is what is called heroism. For the first time, there is now a national convergence to remove the problems facing this country.
“Zanu PF has failed to deliver the aspirations of the people so we need to deal with the source of our problems not its symptoms,” Tsvangirai said, exhorting Mugabe and the government to “bring back Dzamara dead or alive”.
“If he is alive we want to know how much you have tortured him and if he is dead we want to bury him,” he said.
Mliswa called on the youth to be brave and to act, saying those who had fought the liberation war against minority rule in the country were brave youths. He also demanded that Mugabe make a statement on Dzamara.
Mfundo Mlilo, who represented civil society organisations, said they held the Zimbabwean government responsible for Dzamara’s disappearance, adding that nothing had been done to find the activist despite a court order for the police to search and give updates on the progress made pertaining to his whereabouts
Mavambo Kusile Dawn leader, Simba Makoni, who said he was representing all opposition political parties including Zanu PF People First, said the government should ensure citizens’ safety, adding that he suspected that “those that do not need change in Zimbabwe are the ones who abducted Dzamara”.
The first prayer meeting to remember and highlight Dzamara’s spine-chilling abduction on March 9 this year was banned by police last month on the spurious grounds that it had allegedly been “hijacked” by opposition parties.
Dzamara, 36, went missing after staging sit-ins demanding the resignation of Mugabe from power. He was seized by five unidentified men at a barber shop in the Harare high density suburb of Glen View and bundled into an unmarked truck near his home.
Tsvangirai has said that he holds Mugabe and security agencies responsible for the activist’s abduction and disappearance, an accusation that has been rejected by the government.
“We are in no doubt as to the perpetrators of this abduction,” Tsvangirai told a news conference at his Movement for Democratic Change’s Harvest House headquarters in central Harare, just after Dzamara’s disappearance.
“We hold Mugabe and his regime responsible for this morbid and senseless act. The president, who is also AU and Sadc chair, cannot preside over a country where innocent citizens get abducted and disappear.”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have also since successfully filed a harbeas corpus application at the High Court, with Justice David Mangota ordering that Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi, police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Happyton Bonyongwe and the State Security minister — listed as respondents in the application alleging that state security agents had masterminded the abduction — find him.
Although all the respondents denied knowledge of Dzamara’s whereabouts during the hearing, they were still ordered by the court “to do all things necessary to determine his whereabouts including advertising within 12 hours of the granting of the court order on all State media including all radio stations, ZTV, the (State-run) Herald and The Chronicle newspapers”.
The High Court also directed that a team of police detectives be deployed to work closely with Dzamara’s legal practitioners to search for him “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 16:00 hours every Friday fortnightly until his whereabouts have been determined”.
But in a recent bi-monthly update to the High Court, the head of Law and Order in the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Crispen Makedenge, claimed that they had searched high and low for Dzamara to no avail.
In the lead-up to his abduction, the democracy activist had been arrested, beaten savagely and incarcerated on a number of occasions for calling on Mugabe to step down.
Dzamara was admitted to a Harare hospital late last year alongside human rights lawyer Kennedy Masiye after both sustained serious injuries from brutal assaults by more than 20 police officers who disrupted his protest.
And as the anger among Zimbabweans regarding his abduction continues to mount, his distraught wife, Sheffra, made an emotional plea to his abductors to release him, saying the couple’s minor children are in distress and crying for their father to come back home.
The emotional Sheffra told the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper the Daily News recently that she was appealing to the country’s leaders and to the conscience of her husbands’ abductors to “search their humanity” and release him unharmed.
“Please release my husband alive because his children are still young and they still need their father,” the grief-stricken Sheffra pleaded, choking with emotion.
The 32-year-old mother of two also revealed that her children aged seven and three were struggling to cope with their father’s absence.
“My seven-year-old who is in Grade 2 is aware of the fact that his father is not there. He asks frequently after his father and it is clear that he is greatly disturbed by his father’s absence,” she said.
SheIsraela said life had been unbearable for the family since her husband’s abduction — particularly since Dzamara was the family’s sole bread winner.
“It is terrible, and I am actually being assisted by my brothers-in-law,” she said.
Sheffra also said she believed that her husband’s abduction was planned because a few days before his disappearance she had spotted two vehicles, an Isuzu and Nissan twin cab, circling her home.
“The vehicles made at least five rounds and immediately my suspicions were aroused because I know that my husband is a targeted man. I even took the number plate of the white Isuzu truck”.
Expounding on her suspicions that the government was behind the abduction, she said, “Authorities once told him one day gava richadambura musungo (we will get you one day)”.