HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai made sensational claims yesterday that missing human rights activist, Itai Dzamara, was abducted by suspected State agents because he had in his possession damning evidence of ballot fraud from the controversial 2013 polls.
The former prime minister in the government of national unity made the claim after joining the Dzamara family and hundreds of other Zimbabweans who marched in Harare to commemorate the first anniversary of the disappearance of the “Occupy Africa Unity Square” movement leader.
In the meantime, embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told lawmakers in the National Assembly that police still had no leads on the journalist-cum-democracy activist’s whereabouts.
Dzamara was abducted on March 9, 2015, two days after he had addressed an MDC rally at Zimbabwe Grounds, in the Harare high density suburb of Highfield.
Addressing the huge crowd that gathered at Africa Unity Square, the popular park where Dzamara used to operate from during his brave demonstrations in which he called upon President Robert Mugabe to step down for misgoverning the country, Tsvangirai disclosed that the missing activist had damning information on the disputed 2013 elections.
“Ndinoziva (I know) Itai was somebody who was very knowledgeable about how the 2013 election were rigged. He told me, and we cannot accept this, especially me. I witnessed the abductions of people in 2008.
“We have a right to demonstrate. The police should not tell us what to do. Why do they always try to block peaceful demonstrations?” the MDC leader said, referring to the earlier attempt by police to ban yesterday’s demonstrations.
High Court judge Clement Phiri eventually had to intervene to allow the Dzamara family to proceed with its planned peaceful march, to mark exactly one year since the activist disappeared.
“This government has mismanaged the economy and now it is threatening the safety and security of citizens that is guaranteed by the Constitution. We demand that this government returns Dzamara, whether dead or alive, so that there is closure on this emotive issue
“Itai Dzamara’s disappearance presents the unacceptable face of this regime, the face of a regime that embarks on abducting people because they have different views,” Tsvangirai charged.
After the speech, Tsvangirai joined the Dzamara family in a solidarity march on the streets of Harare, while the issue caused rancour in Parliament, where legislators demanded answers on the activist’s whereabouts.
“I assure this house that government will leave no stone unturned in the investigation of the disappearance of this citizen of ours. Also this matter went to court … So let me assure this house that this concern is not only the family’s concern, but it’s the concern of every citizen of this country.
“I don’t know if there is any honourable member who does not care or is not worried about this disappearance. I doubt it because you won’t want a citizen of this country to disappear without a trace.
“We are all concerned. And anybody with any information, confirmed or unconfirmed, let them come forward so that, that information is examined,” Mnangagwa told Parliament.
Home Affairs deputy minister, Obedingwa Mguni, said his ministry had intensified its search for the activist and had now set a reward for any information on Dzamara’s whereabouts.
“Let me say it’s a big concern to all of us … the police have formulated a committee that involves human rights lawyers, Itai Dzamara’s family and friends. They sit every month to discuss issues that may lead to the recovery of the great man,” Mguni said.
But Oliver Mandipaka, the Zanu PF MP for Buhera West, rose to ask: “What was so great about Dzamara?”, to which Mguni, in a sharp retort, said: “Honourable, every citizen in Zimbabwe is a great person”.
In a statement issued later, the US Embassy in Harare said it remained deeply concerned about Dzamara’s whereabouts and wellbeing.
“The United States urges the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms are honoured and enjoyed by all Zimbabweans, regardless of political affiliation.
“We also encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to fully investigate cases of politically-motivated violence and abductions to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and victims receive justice,” the embassy said.
On its part, the Canadian Embassy said it also remained troubled by the lack of progress in the investigation of the matter, as well as the dearth of information about the case.
“The Embassy of Canada calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to pursue its efforts to resolve this prolonged and untenable situation, for the relief of the family and friends of Mr Dzamara.
“Canada remains concerned about human rights, democracy, freedom and the rule of law in Zimbabwe and will continue to work to foster a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for all Zimbabweans, consistent with Zimbabwe’s own Constitution,” the embassy said.