'I will take a bullet for a better Zim'

PATSON Dzamara speaks  to Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki about the search for his ‘‘abducted’’ brother Itai and the protests that he has been leading in a bid to highlight forced disappearances. Below are the excerpts of the interview.

Q: It’s been more than a year since Itai disappeared, what hope do you have that he will be found?

A: For as long as Itai or his remains are not released to us I shall continue hoping. Not only am I am hopeful but I am taking the necessary and possible steps towards unearthing what happened to him.

Q: Police say they have failed to make headway, does this signal a dead end in so far is the search of your brother is concerned?

A: Not at all. Their position actually cements my position of disbelief and frustration in them.

From the onset I have posited that the police isn’t working in good faith.

They are certainly operating from a position of knowledge and instruction. They know what happened to Itai and they have been instructed to handle the matter (in) a certain way.

However, and inspite of that, for me it’s no longer just about Itai. Yes I am still demanding answers regarding his disappearance but my quest is now broader and bigger than just that. I am working towards setting a two pronged precedence.

The first prong has everything to do with enforced disappearances. I am using Itai’s case as a precedence regarding enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe. In the time past, people would get abducted by Zanu PF and State security agents and no-one would dare confront them. That has changed.

I made sure that enough noise was made regarding Itai’s abduction and the message is clear enough that as Zimbabweans we don’t condone abductions. In future, they will think twice before abducting a citizen. This has and will cost them.

The second prong has everything to do with demystifying the police. Mugabe and his surrogates have relied on the brutality of the police and even the army in order to suppress the voices and wishes of the people but what people ought to know is that no-one is above the law and that even state security agents are bound by the law.

They can’t deal with us in a willy-nilly manner. We must take a stand for our rights.

With or without the cooperation of the police, the search for Itai goes on. There are so many avenues we have relied on in our search for Itai other than the police.

Q: You recently released a hotly disputed photo which you claimed was of Itai in captivity, how authentic is the photograph and your source?

A: After I released that image it invoked a lot of debate in different circles. I was not at all surprised. Zimbabweans naturally find themselves raptured in a vain analysis mode over issues.

A lot of pertinent and even meaningless questions were raised regarding the source and authenticity of the image I released.
I did not release that image for fun or to mislead anyone. I wouldn’t have done it for fun or any other reason especially considering the risks attached to what I did. Itai is still missing and that is not a joke.

That image is certainly Itai’s image. Not only did we confirm it with our bare eyes but we also solicited the input of forensic experts who used their expertise to determine whether the person on that image is Itai or not. They confirmed that indeed it’s him. The fact that we confirmed that indeed it’s Itai’s image certainly validates the source too.

Q: After the release of the photograph you were summoned to the police, what was the subject of your discussion?

A: After the release of the photography, I was summoned to the police. My lead lawyer, Charles Kwaramba and I went to Harare Central Police Station to meet assistant commissioner Makadenge and his team.

I gave them the information they needed. They essentially wanted to find out where and how I got that photo. I availed that information to them.
I asked them whether there was anything new from their end and it’s regrettable that to date they haven’t even made any headway and that remains one of the premises of my doubt in so far as their professed investigations are concerned.

I told Makadenge and his team that I don’t trust that they are acting in good faith. I still believe that they know what happened to Itai.

I also told them that my mistrust in their sincerity is what caused me not to even take the image to them when I received it. From the onset, I have never minced my words regarding who I hold responsible for Itai’s abduction. Having to look up to the same people we deem responsible for that heinous act defies simple logic.

Q: On Independence Day you confronted President Robert Mugabe and demanded the release of your brother, doesn’t this endanger your security and your hopes of finding Itai?

A: On this year’s Independence Day, April 18, I staged a one-man demo at the National Sports Stadium. Independence Day marks the birth of modern Zimbabwe, but more than that, it marks the date when Zimbabweans were supposed to have been given their freedom, hard won after years of a bloody and cruel war.

Yet, 36 years after the attainment of independence the promises of independence seem to have been blown away by the wind.

Itai Dzamara, my brother, was abducted in broad daylight by suspected State agents over a year ago. That certainly defeats the spirit and form of independence.

Having exhausted all other avenues, and having been ignored by our government, in my exasperation, I went to the stadium as the only way to confront head on the government ignoring my family’s plight.

Having entered the stadium, I found a piece of cardboard and wrote a message asking where my brother is. After the president’s speech, I went with it to the VIP tent and stood silently, holding my placard in front of the president and his Cabinet ministers.

Professor Jonathan Moyo was the first to spot me and looked nervous and jittery... perhaps the reaction of a man feeling guilty?

It took a good two minutes for security to react, an indication of lack of professionalism. After all, if I hadn’t been a peaceful citizen, who knows what could have happened?

The security details dragged me off the turf towards the bleachers, and once under them, forced me to kneel on my feet in an uncomfortable position.

They had already started beating me with their fists and one baton stick, 10 plainclothes security agents on one unarmed civilian who was exercising his constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully.

They told me they were in trouble because of me...when it was their own incompetence, further demonstrated by their lack of discipline.

One said, ‘‘You want to know where your brother is? We will take you where we took your brother!” confirming my suspicion that the State knows where Itai is and what they did to him.

Q: You have been accused of being used by western governments and opposition parties to cause instability similar to those of the Arab Spring, how are you treating these accusations?

A: It would be naïve for anyone to think that the State would fold its arms and ignore what I am doing in the quest to locate the truth behind Itai’s enforced disappearance. Of course, they have their misrule to protect and they will do anything to fight back.

I have pretty much become a target as a result of my staunch stand against the abduction of my brother. In the time past, they would easily get away with human rights violations, including abductions but I chose not to be a coward.

Knowing fully what would befall me, I still chose to take a stand, something the state is never been accustomed to. They are used to an extremely docile citizenry.

Due to Mugabe’s misrule, premised upon fear resulting from gross human rights violations, many Zimbabweans would rather choose not to confront the state over anything for fear of victimisation.

In this case, I chose to rise above that fear and I chose to face the giant head on, standing on nothing but the truth and faith in God. That presented me a marked man within the system and none of that moves me. I don’t want to die a coward. I would rather take a bullet for Itai and for a better Zimbabwe other than cowering into a shell of cowardice.

The State is responsible for Itai Dzamara’s abduction and that will never change. That certainly doesn’t have anything to do with western governments or opposition parties. It certainly has everything to do with an evil mafia masquerading as the leaders of nation. Other than promulgating all that unfounded nonsense, they must just account for Itai Dzamara, period!

If Itai Dzamara’s disappearance is a good enough platform for the opposition to advance their reform agenda then fair and fine. Let it be. We are tired of oppression.

Q: Are you not afraid of knee-jerk reaction from the State given its intolerance for dissent and gatherings it views as threats to its own existence?

A: I always say that a dead man can never be ‘‘deadier’’ than being dead.

The despicable oppression we have endured under Mugabe and his minions’ misrule is infested with ugly fingerprints of murderers. That cabal of gangsters has practically done everything within their power to decimate our humanity and dignity as Zimbabweans. They have killed us though we are still alive.

Their propensity towards oppressing and killing is deeply entrenched to such an extent that they find it exhilarating to continue firing shots even on corpses. One wonders whether they think that killing a dead man makes him ‘‘deader’’ than being dead.

The oppression most of us Zimbabweans have endured at the hands of Mugabe and his surrogates has certainly constricted us to the death zone.

By constantly seeking to dehumanise us, they have killed our trust in them. They have killed our sense of pride. By constantly subjecting us to their venom of oppression, they have killed our care; we don’t care what they can or can’t do anymore.

For choosing to be strangers to conscience and for choosing to welcome recurring attacks of insanity, they must fall and we are no longer afraid of them.

Under the hegemony of this satanic regime, we have lost our dignity as a nation. Some of us have lost our loved ones. Some have lost resources and regrettably some of us have lost our sense of belonging to this beautiful nation they have turned into rags.

It is with all that in mind that I boldly stand for what is right. I am not moved by what these custodians of evil can or can’t do. They are not gods. They have tried several tactics earmarked at breaking my spine but I am still standing.

They have arrested and tortured me several times. They have even gone as far as fabricating malicious lies about me but I am not moved. None of all that shall cajole me to normalise what is abnormal. If I am to choose between dying a coward and dying for the truth, I will choose dying for the truth.

Q: There is growing agitation by youths for change; in the current dispensation do you think your voices can be heard?

A: One Victor Hugo intoned that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

The time for a transition in Zimbabwe has come and nothing can stop it. Whether they like it or not, they have no other option than heeding and giving in to our calls.

A hybrid of challenges we face certainly calls for a multi-pronged approach and response. Watering a dead log won’t bring it to life neither does flogging a dead horse culminate in its resurrection.

Unfortunately, most of these individuals we are cajoled to refer to as leaders and directing our complaints to have already raptured themselves into the dead logs or horses zone.

There is nothing much to expect from them other than disposing them.

That brings us to a critical curve, the endgame curve. In the endgame zone, an amalgamation of both online and offline tactics is what will help us dispose these dead logs and horses.

We must galvanise our efforts as young people in our diversity towards reclaiming our country from the hands of these failures. The importance of a unified approach cannot be overemphasised.

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