Exactly three years ago, on 9th March 2015, journalist cum activist Itai Dzamara was abducted in Harare – and has never been seen ever since – after presenting a petition for then Zimbabwe president Robert Gabriel Mugabe to resign.
After three painful years of pressing for answers from the Mugabe – and now, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – government, Dzamara’s family, and the rest of the nation, have not heard anything worthwhile on his whereabouts and what happened to him.
The only ‘sin’ Dzamara committed was calling for Mugabe to resign – a man who had ruined the lives of millions of Zimbabweans, through his warped and disturbed economic policies, corruption, and brutal and atrocious rule.
What baffles everyone in this country – and possibly, the whole civilized world – is that the current president, Mnangagwa, also wanted Mugabe to resign – such that, the military intervention last year November, in state affairs, was supposedly for that very reason.
Despite Mugabe’s subsequent resignation, at the behest of the military and his party ZANU PF – resulting in Mnangagwa’s usurping of power – it is shocking that the new president – whose actions to push for Mugabe’s resignation in November 2017, seemed to be in alignment to Dzamara’s desires – has not said a word on his abduction and disappearance.
Why would Mnangagwa be so silent on this very crucial matter, when all Dzamara wanted was what he (Mnangagwa) ended up doing anyway?
The new president has been at pains trying to convince the world that what happened in November last year was not a military coup d’etat, but that it was a democratic and constitutional transition of power.
He would like all and sundry to believe that the so-called ‘operation restore legacy’ was meant to rid Zimbabwe of corrupt thieves, oppressors and those who destroyed the economy – the very things Dzamara fought for.
Mnangagwa has also tried to portray himself as a man who is guided by human rights and democratic tenets, who is guaranteeing the freedom of expression, and peaceful, free and fair elections, scheduled for mid-year.
If he would want us – and the world – to believe him, albeit, with a pinch of salt, he now needs to step up and lead in resolving Dzamara’s abduction and disappearance.
He cannot claim to stand for all those values – the same as what Dzamara stood for – and yet, fold his arms and look the other way, whilst the nation demands answers regarding the human rights activist’s whereabouts.
Does Mnangagwa’s apathetic attitude reveal something more sinister?
Is he truly different from his predecessor Mugabe?
Do they sincerely harbour different worldviews, or are they merely birds of a feather?
Is he just as frightened of human rights activists as was Mugabe?
Thus, the world needs to ask Mnangagwa one pertinent question: why then, did you force Mugabe to resign, if your motives were different from those of Dzamara’s?
Before ignorantly throwing in their lot with the new president, the international community needs to be certain what this ‘old new dispensation’ is all about – if it cannot be concerned about an abducted and disappeared human rights activist, so what do they truly stand for?
These questions should expose this junta for who they really are – a military takeover of government, as a result of a bitter struggle between bona fide tyrants that boiled over.
There is nothing democratic and peaceful about this junta, as much as there will never be any peaceful, free and fair elections – as is already obvious based on media reports of violence against the opposition, intimidation of voters by demanding their election registration certificate numbers, and the unconstitutional misuse of traditional leaders.
This charade of ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ needs to be connected to the respect of human rights values – as happened during the Mugabe era – since the two can never be separated.
If Mnangagwa wants to continue being taken seriously, he needs to change his current indifferent attitude towards issues of human rights, especially, Dzamara’s abduction.
Be it as it may, the Dzamara case is just the figurehead of hundreds, if not thousands, of unsolved disappearances, whose answers are demanded of this regime – from the gukurahundi, and the volatile 2000s violent repression of dissenting voices.
All those people that are still not accounted for, demand justice – and the time is now!
No amount of smiles, globetrotting, and sweet talking will mask the true nature of democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa, and the sooner he walked the talk, the better – as the world can not be duped for much longer.
If Mnangagwa is to learn one vital lesson from his predecessor, it is
that: no one can stop a people hungry for democracy, and one abduction will simply lead to a hundred more activists.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also ‘Like’ the ‘ZimJustice’ page on Facebook.