Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday slammed the abduction by unknown attackers of a pro-democracy activist and said he held President Robert Mugabe and his government responsible.
Itai Dzamara, who had been publicly calling on Mugabe to step down, was abducted from a barber’s shop in Glen View suburb on Monday and has not been heard from since.
“We hold Mugabe and his regime responsible for this morbid and senseless act,” Tsvangirai said in a statement.
“The president, who is also AU and SADC chair, cannot preside over a country where innocent citizens get abducted and disappear,” he added.
Dzamara, 36, is also a journalist. His protests in central Harare calling on Mugabe to step down have been peaceful.
Dzamara’s abductors were travelling in a white twin-cab with a “blurred” number plate, lawyers’ group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said in a statement earlier.
Bystanders who saw the abduction said the men accused him of stealing a cow.
Since his abduction, Dzamara’s phone has been switched off and he has not had any contact with his family.
Rumours have been circulating on social media and at least one news website that he has been found dead, but these have not been confirmed and no reliable source is cited.
Tsvangirai said he feared “the worst”.
“This is a morbid message to Zimbabweans, to SADC, to Africa and the broader international community that the demon is back; that violence remains very much part of our political culture,” the Movement for Democratic Change leader said.
ZLHR has filed an urgent court application “to compel whoever is holding Dzamara to bring him before the court so as to determine if he should really be in detention”.
Dzamara was beaten unconscious by police in November 2014 during one of his protests in Harare’s Africa Unity Square, near parliament. A rights lawyer who went to his defence was also assaulted.
Twitter user Chipo Matshe wrote Tuesday: “Please everyone make sure that #ItaiDzamara is found and brought back safely! Like the good #Zimbabwean civil servants we are!”
Journalist Kelvin Mupungu said: “Updates on #ItaiDzamara I just spoke to Pat Dzamara the brother, he said he still doesn’t know. So let’s pray–Matewu.”