THE European Union’s delegation to Zimbabwe on Tuesday hit out at the handling of the police investigation into the disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara.
The pro-democracy activist has been missing for three months after being allegedly abducted in Harare on 9 March.
“I am not making any judgement on what the police have done or not done,” EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe Van Damme said in an interview, “but indeed there’s a legal obligation by the Zimbabwean authorities to provide regular and thorough reports on the progress made in the search for Mr. Dzamara.”
The High Court ordered state security ministers to regularly report to Dzamara’s lawyers and family about the search for Dzamara and the investigation into his disappearance.
“So far we haven’t seen any substantive reports. I think we have had one or two formal reports but which do not really respond to what is expected from substantive reports on the progress and the search, and that worries us indeed,” says the EU diplomat.
The Dzamara family lawyer, Charles Kwarumba, agrees. “From the word go, I think it has never been handled seriously at all,” he says.
Kwarumba says the High Court ruling was intended to force the police to begin a wide scale search. “There’s been no movement, no commitment to go all out and leave no stone unturned in the search. If we don’t have the corresponding efforts from government, our efforts are really hamstrung,” he adds.
The question remains: who kidnapped Dzamara? He was reportedly snatched by five unarmed men while getting a haircut and bundled into an unmarked Isuzu vehicle. Some point to ruling party Zanu-PF, but not everyone is convinced.
Dzamara went to Africa Unity Square in central Harare daily to hold signs calling for President Robert Mugabe to step down. The Occupy Africa Unity Square movement was built via social networks, says Rejoice Ngwenya, a friend of Dzamara and the head of COMALISO, a public policy think tank in Harare.
“It didn’t have a critical mass that would probably register it on the political Richter scale of an Arab uprising,” says Ngwenya. “So his capacity to change the political dispensation by his activism, I don’t think it would have warranted Zanu-PF to completely trash their international image,” he says referring to the effect the alleged kidnapping could have on Zimbabwe’s government.
“I would say there are people here who I think are more involved with that type of activism than he did. Then again, this is Zanu-PF that you’re dealing with,” says Ngwenya.
Activists are holding a prayer vigil for Dzamara in the Zimbabwe Grounds area in Harare on June 14. Ex-Zanu-PF officials and opposition figures are expected to attend.
Ngwenya says that Dzamara was a member of the MDC-T, the opposition party headed by Morgan Tsvangirai. If Tsvangirai and his executive committee members believe that Dzamara was abducted by Zanu-PF operatives, he does not understand why the party did not do more.
“We should have seen more explosive political expression. We should have seen the millions of people that Tsvangirai claims to have in his political tent, running down the streets of Harare, burning tyres. I am not seeing that,” says Ngwenya.
“That to me is a travesty of justice if Itai was abducted by Zanu-PF. His colleagues in MDC-T have not responded with the force and the nature that they are associated with. That, to me, is a blight on Morgan Tsvangirai’s political activism,” says Ngwenya.