Why ban protests in support of Dzamara?

HARARE - More than 11 months after the forced disappearance of civil society activist Itai Dzamara, his brother Patson has filed an urgent High Court chamber application to force the police to lift its ban on the family’s planned peaceful march to mark one year since the activist’s disappearance.

Government must clarify the state of the investigation and answer the many outstanding questions around his disappearance.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) successfully filed a habeas corpus application at the High Court ordering senior security officials “to do all things necessary to determine his whereabouts”.

High Court Justice David Mangota also directed a team of police detectives to work closely with Dzamara’s legal team to search for him.

A police statement issued at the time said: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police is appealing for information on the whereabouts of Itai Peace Kadiki Dzamara, aged 35 years.”

Perhaps it is time authorities seek and accept assistance from foreign forensic and law enforcement experts. Just like the Dzamara family, we reiterate our concern that the lack of reaction by the government raises serious suspicions on the disappearance of the activist.

And we continue to question why authorities are hell-bent on scuttling protests calling for Dzamara’s return. In his court application, Patson, who is represented by the ZLHR, said that he gave a notice to the police on February 19 this year on his family’s intention to hold a peaceful religious march to mark a year since the disappearance of Itai, who was abducted and has been missing since March 9 last year.

The elder Dzamara said despite the police being aware that religious gatherings are exempt from getting clearance notices in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), they went ahead to stop the event.

These myriad efforts, however, have so far failed to yield results. There is still no information on Dzamara’s whereabouts, or any substantive details on the progress of the official investigation into his disappearance.

The government can continue to ignore international pressure because there have been few concrete consequences for their inaction. Tough words have not been followed by equally tough actions.

It is disappointing that the outpouring of concern, as well as the public and private intercessions on behalf of Dzamara, have so far yielded precious little.

At most, the response has caused some irritation to officials whenever visiting or resident dignitaries raise the issue of Dzamara’s disappearance.

Within officialdom, if statements by President Robert Mugabe’s press secretary George Charamba are anything to go by, no one wants to hear Dzamara’s name, no one wants to be reminded of his disappearance, and no one dares to talk openly about him.

We are terribly pained and discouraged by the lack of concrete results, and nevertheless still believe that at some point the silence will be broken.

Government must understand the damage the lack of credible answers on Dzamara’s case is causing the country.

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