HARARE - Even as police were dangling a reward of $10 000 on Friday to anyone who could lead them to Itai Dzamara (pictured), one of his anguished close friends said yesterday that he was not convinced that authorities were doing enough to find the abducted journalist-turned-democracy activist.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday, Dzamara’s comrade-in-arms, Dirk Frey — who is now also the acting leader of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest initiative — said while he had not given up hope that his colleague would one day return to continue contributing to Zimbabwe’s democratisation struggle, nothing had been done to date by authorities suggesting serious intent to find the missing arch critic of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s misrule.
“In my case, I was called in by the superintendent and several inspectors from the police’s law and order section,
where they were asking about different rumours like Dzamara left the country. As much as we have co-operated and have supported the police, we are very disappointed with the significant lack of movement,” he said.
Asked if Dzamara could have fled to neighbouring countries as suggested by some cynical government and Zanu PF bigwigs, Frey — who readily admits that he is living in fear after he himself was once detained and bludgeoned by law enforcement agents along with Dzamara — said it was inconceivable that his “patriotic friend would ever run away”.
“Itai was committed to this issue (struggle for democracy) and to Zimbabwe. He was also a patriot, and therefore it is not conceivable that the man could abandon his cause, his country and his family,” Frey said.
Relating his emotions when he received the phone call that Itai had been abducted, he said this had left him highly distressed.
“The first thing I felt was shock and distress. But to be very honest, I was not very surprised because of the reaction by authorities to the activities that we had been involved in, and the opposition to our programmes that we faced from the government.
“And in a sense, I think Itai was prepared for this and may have even anticipated that something like this would happen to him,” Frey said.
Asked by the Daily News on Sunday to comment on what threat Dzamara could have posed to Mugabe, Zanu PF and the government, particularly given that the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest initiative had a small following, he said “none” — which made the activist’s abduction the more perplexing.
“As a result of the abduction, there has been a dip in our activities, even though we have maintained our presence in the park (Africa Unity Square in Harare). The members who were there before Itai was abducted are still with us. They have remained steadfast but because of what happened to Itai, the group has not grown in numbers,” Frey said.
Just prior to his disappearance, Dzamara had stitched together an alliance with the MDC youth league, and had — 48 hours before he was abducted — threatened to lead a mass demonstration against Mugabe, which some analysts suggest could have materialised into something big.
Reacting to what he called “malicious claims”, mainly by Zanu PF apparatchiks, that Dzamara may have been abducted by his own comrades after he received significant donations from well-wishers, Frey said this was “complete hogwash”.
“We have been operating through the generosity of well wishers in Zimbabwe, as well as from the Diaspora. But these amounts have been very small.
“That story of $200 000 being donated to us is absolutely ridiculous because with such money we would have campaigned for Itai’s return. The amounts that we have been receiving are strictly two and three figures only,” the 29-year-old Frey said.
Meanwhile, former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa is adamant that since Dzamara was “a thorn in the flesh for the establishment”, it stands to reason that the State should be held accountable on his whereabouts.
“The State should know where Dzamara is. Our security is second to none and is very competent. If they are saying they do not know where he is, then that cannot be true.
“When he was abducted by people suspected to be from government, isn’t it that he was protesting against Baba Mugabe and Zanu PF. Those are the people who should know,” Mutasa said.
But the government continues to profess its ignorance about the whereabouts of Dzamara, with Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba recently saying that his boss would not have looked at the former journalist as his enemy or that of the State.
Like many Zimbabweans Dzamara — who at one point almost become a pastor — was fed up with Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s misrule. But unlike most citizens, he had a rare trait of bravery that even his former colleagues say sometimes bordered on “careless exuberance and attention-seeking”.
In the meantime, calls for Dzamara’s safe return are gathering steam, with thousands of anguished Zimbabweans from all walks of life, including virtually all of the country’s opposition leaders, attending a solemn prayer rally in Harare last week to mark four months since he 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 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)”.
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.
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.
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.
And as the anger among Zimbabweans regarding his abduction continues to mount, his distraught wife, Sheffra, has 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.