OPPOSITION MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday charged President Robert Mugabe with the abduction of pro-democracy activist and journalist Itai Dzamara.
The former prime minister spoke as human rights lawyers filed a court application seeking explanation over Dzamara’s whereabouts amid claims he was seized by State security agents.
Dzamara and associates have been staging sit-ins at Harare’s Africa Unity Square calling for democratic reforms and President Mugabe’s resignation.
A member of his organisation, Charles Nyoni, said Dzamara was abducted by five men while having a haircut at a barbershop in the capital.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she has not yet received a full briefing on the case.
But Tsvangirai told a press conference in the capital that his party held Mugabe responsible for whatever will happen to the leader of a new opposition movement going by the code name Operation Occupy Africa Unity Square.
“The callous abduction of Itai Dzamara has come as a complete shock to me, to the MDC and to Zimbabweans at large,” said Tsvangirai.
“Only yesterday (Monday), we heard he was abducted from a hair salon and driven away in an Isuzu vehicle by five unknown men.
“Late afternoon yesterday, I received a call from his wife, informing me that Dzamara had been abducted and the family could not find him.”
He added: “We are in no doubt as to the perpetrators of this abduction.
“We hold Mugabe and his regime responsible for this morbid and senseless act. The President, who is also AU and SADC chair, cannot preside over a country where innocent citizens get abducted and disappear.”
Tsvangirai called on the government to launch a full investigation into the abduction which is alleged to have happened in Harare on Monday.
“We hold the State culpable. We hold Zanu PF responsible,” he said.
“We demand a full investigation and arrests of the culprits so that Zimbabweans can live in the comfort that we have a government that cares and takes seriously its responsibility to protect citizens.”
The opposition strongman equated Dzamara’s alleged abduction to those of his party cadres in 2008.
“The circumstances of Dzamara’s abduction are very familiar to the MDC family, which has lost many cadres in similar circumstance,” he said.
“Tonderai Ndira, Tichaona Chiminya, Beta Chokururama and many others have been abducted and in most cases found murdered.
“In 2008, many MDC activists were maimed, raped or murdered and seven years later, no single arrest has been made in connection with the crimes.
“Today, in an almost similar script, Dzamara is abducted in broad daylight and that is why we fear for the worst.
“We thought this country had moved on and was past these barbaric and shameful acts.
Throwback to 2008 violence
“We thought we had moved to full civilization but it appears the leopard has remained faithful to its spots.”
Hundreds of MDC-T activists were abducted while some were killed following the ill-fated 2008 one man run-off election called by Mugabe after he had lost the first round of voting to Tsvangirai.
The MDC-T claimed no less than 300 of its supporters were killed in the mayhem. Tsvangirai said Dzamara has been leading public but constitutional protests against the government, “for which he has previously been brutally attacked by State security agents”.
“For us, there is no wonder as to the identity of the people behind his abduction and disappearance.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International urged the government to investigate his disappearance and ensure his safety.
Another rights group, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, said the reported abduction violated the country’s new constitution, which it said guarantees freedom from torture or cruel and degrading treatment or punishment.
Human rights lawyers Kennedy Masiye and Charles Kwaramba said they assisted the activist’s wife in filing a missing person report with the police.
“We went to the scene of the abduction with Dzamara’s wife and the police for inspection as part of police investigations,” said Masiye, a lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization.
A court application seeks to compel whoever is holding Dzamara to hand him over to the court, which should then determine the legality of his detention, he said.