Spooks abduct, torture activists

HARARE - Four pro-democracy activists, including the young brother of missing journalist Itai Dzamara — Patson — were abducted, severely tortured and left for dead in the wee hours of yesterday by suspected State agents, ahead of a mass demonstration that was planned for Harare, as President Robert Mugabe’s panicking government escalates its clampdown on dissent in the country.

Patson and his three comrades — Ishmael Kauzani, Nathan Matadza and Nashe Salami — suffered the horrendous ordeal just after midnight yesterday when unidentified armed men, suspected to be intelligence operatives, appeared from nowhere and blocked their car in Mufakose, where they had gone to pick up their other colleagues.

And before the hapless activists and bystanders had enough time to suss out what was happening, their assailants fired a volley of live bullets in the air to scare away any bystanders and all potential witnesses — leaving the quartet at the complete mercy of their mad abductors.

Meanwhile, the Daily News has also learnt that around the same time, groups of armed soldiers ran amok in the capital’s high density suburbs of Glen Norah B and Kuwadzana townships, where they ransacked nightclubs and indiscriminately beat up revellers — leaving many patrons seriously injured and requiring medical attention.

Repeated attempts to get a comment on the various incidents from police spokesperson Charity Charamba drew a blank yesterday.

TORTURED: Partson, the brother of missing activist Itai Dzamara, cries as he recounts his ordeal at the Avenues Clinic in Harare yesterday. Pic: Annie Mpalume.

But speaking from his hospital bed yesterday, Patson said the seemingly deranged agents who blocked their way forced the four activists out of his car and assaulted them with malicious intent using the butts of their rifles, spikes and booted feet.

“We were planning for today’s (yesterday) demo and had gone to pick up some of our comrades in Mufakose. On our way back, at the intersection of Mukonono and High Glen roads, two cars blocked us.

“When we tried to reverse, they took their out guns out and started firing.

“They took us out of the car and forced us to sit down, before they started beating us with their rifle butts, spikes and booted feet. They then proceeded to blindfold me,” the traumatised Patson said.

“They then phoned someone whom they addressed as ‘boss’ ... after the phone call they said to me ‘Dzamara sorry hako, toda kukudzidzisa lesson. Hauna kudzidza zvatakaita mukoma wako saka nhasi izuva rako rekudzidza (Sorry Dzamara, you did not learn from your brother’s abduction and so today it’s your day to learn the hard way).

“I said to them ‘do whatever you want,” Patson, whose elder brother Itai was abducted last year in Harare’s Glen View in broad daylight while having a haircut and is still missing, said.

The Dzamara family has accused Mugabe’s government of knowing the whereabouts of Itai and suggested in May that they had stumbled on information that he had been abducted by military intelligence operatives.

However, the military has strongly denied the accusations.

In his brother’s absence, Patson has been bravely leading anti-Mugabe demonstrations, vowing to carry on the work of his brother which he did through his Occupy Africa Unity Square (OAUS) initiative.

Patson said so horrific was the treatment and the assaults that they received on Thursday that he thought they would “never live to tell the tale”.

“They beat me savagely for a long time and then poured a liquid on me before dumping me. When I came around, I realised that there was a road nearby and it took the intervention of some Good Samaritans who then took me to a nearby service station.

“The Good Samaritans then called my brother, soon after which I heard that my car had been burnt and that all my belongings, including my mobile phone, had been destroyed,” he said.

The activists’ lawyer, David Hofisi, said his clients had been targeted for organising yesterday’s anti-government demonstration which was later called off following the gruesome attacks on the four.

“He (Patson) was a victim of abduction at around 1am in the morning. He did manage to identify most of these abductors and it appears as if some of them were from the State.

“The abduction was well-orchestrated and was not a random abduction. The words which were spoken to him indicated that he was being targeted because there was a demonstration planned for today (yesterday). It seems that they actually warned him that he had learnt nothing from the experience of his brother,” Hofisi said.

Yesterday’s demonstration had been called to protest the looming introduction of bond notes — in a matter in which they claim Mugabe is undermining the Constitution by using temporary presidential measures to amend Acts of Parliament.

The groups involved in the demo included Tajamuka, #Thisflag, Zimbabwe Yadzoka, #Occupy Africa Unity Square and the militant National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz), who have vowed to keep taking to the streets until Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, demonstrates that he has people’s concerns at heart, or resigns.

Until yesterday, Harare had been in a period  of relative calm, following the imposition of a blanket ban by authorities on protests in the capital city’s central business district (CBD) for the past few weeks.

All this comes as political analysts have also warned that the economic hardships could trigger more citizen unrest in the country, in the coming weeks and months.

Heavily armed police patrolled the capital’s streets yesterday, while dozens of water cannons were parked at strategic points in anticipation of trouble.

Meanwhile, the attacks on Dzamara and his colleagues have triggered an outpouring of anger among Zimbabweans, with rights and pro-democracy groups slamming the government for using thuggish and patently unlawful tactics to suppress protests.

Among those who condemned the brutal attacks on the activists was the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP).

“Zimbabwe Peace Project is disappointed to learn about the brutal attack and abduction of . . . Dzamara and other activists. ZPP is further disillusioned by the deliberate destruction of property belonging to some of the activists.

“The incidents which are a flagrant violation of the rights of the activists occurred before a demonstration organised by various social movements dubbed #MunhuWeseMuRoad.

“Suspected State security agents are alleged to have attacked the activists who were spearheading the demonstration and two cars were burnt during the ordeal. The attack on the activists is seen as a way of intimidating Zimbabweans who were intending on taking part in the protest organised by social movements,” ZPP said in a statement.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the attacks were a sign that Mugabe’s government was prepared to even walk over dead bodies as long as this guaranteed its stay in power.

“These abductions and beatings of activists by suspected State agents have become routine, showing clearly the unwillingness and failure of Mugabe’s government to observe the rule of law by protecting the rights of citizens and punishing those that abduct,” HRW southern Africa senior researcher, Dewa Mavhinga, said.

“State agents must refuse to be used to commit heinous crimes of abduction and torture and they must know that they will individually be held accountable for perpetrating crimes on citizens who have constitutional rights to peacefully protest against bond notes.

“Mugabe’s government is not only failing Zimbabweans all the time when it comes to human rights protection, it is the main perpetrator of abuses that suspected State agents commit with impunity in a misguided view that violence and force will keep Zanu PF in power.

“Addressing the concerns of Zimbabweans and improving their livelihoods is the only way to secure legitimate political authority. Abductions and violence will not work. And in the fullness of time those who commit these cowardly crimes will be held accountable,” Mavhinga added.

Outspoken cleric, Ancelimo Magaya, said the church was worried by the continuing attacks on pro-democracy and human rights defenders, despite protests being allowed by the Constitution.

“We condemn in the strongest of terms such wickedness. This is callousness of the worst order. As we have always said before, these people are killing in the name of the president and it is sad that the highest office in this nation has failed to reign in these rogue elements,” Magaya said in a hard-hitting statement.

“We call upon the Church in Zimbabwe to be more candid in their condemnation of such brutal show of force. Once again, let the perpetrators of such evil be reminded that God’s judgment is nearer than ever before,” he added.

Comments (4)

Our sympathies go to these real man who choose to stand up to one of the most cunny and powerful dictators of our time. It takes courage and fortitude to do what you do and what you have done. Most of us are cowards. We do not have the strength and resolve to stand with you but our hearts and our prayers are with you. We hope and pray that the good Lord will tilt the scales in your favour, in our favour. For we know that there is no power greater than the people. Pasi nema bond notes and the evil ZANU pf regime.

Viva Unidade - 19 November 2016

The CIO aren't funded by ZANU but by the taxpayer. When the CIO is used to maim and murder on behalf of the clueless ZANU party then that's wrong not to mention illegal. When govt fears the people then that's freedom but when people fear govt then that's tyranny.

Moe Syslack - 20 November 2016

This is just the beggining, we will show these state agents that we the people will always win. it means we have to be much more smarter and plan our things much smarter and it means we need tools. Zimbabwe, this is a revolution, these guys, their hearts are beating fast, we will not give up, this is a revolution to regain what belongs to us, whether they beat us, we are not going to give up but soon violence will be rewarded with violence. The state agents think they can not be beaten or killed, they are fooling themselves.

hokoyo - 21 November 2016

ukatsvaga ma one unomawana mr dzamara no protest strike civil action is going to stop or remove zanu pf if i were you i would work on finding the whereaBOUTS OF MY BROTHER DZEMATONGERWO ENYIKA IDZI DZINONETSA LEAVE POLITICS TO THE POLITICIANS

NUTTY DREADLOCK - 22 November 2016

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