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We are all Itai Dzamara

He was an inspired activist, arrested countless times but never wavering in his belief of freedom. He criss-crossed the country and mobilized communities in the fight for a new Zimbabwe. His name was legend amongst activists from Mabvuku to Makokoba. He was abducted from his neighbourhood by suspected state security agents. His body was found later that month: shot in the heart, multiple stab wounds, eyes gouged, bones broken. His name was Tonderai Ndira.

That was back in 2008. Today we have the shocking case of Itai Dzamara, the recently abducted pro-democracy activist. Itai’s abduction should be a warning and wake up call to us. The current ZANU (PF) government may have eased its foot off the pedal of violence over the last few years and opened up some small democratic space – allowing independent daily newspapers, licensing commercial radio stations and even setting up a human rights commission. But this is the same government that has murdered countless pro-democracy activists like Tonderai Ndira, Tichaona Chiminya and others. Threaten their grip on power and ZANU (PF) can easily accelerate once again down this violent road. And that is what Itai did. He dared to threaten their power. A brave soul with a peaceful protest and a petition.

Tonderai and Itai are also an example of the courage needed to take us forward as a country. Tonderai organized countless protests and actions while being arrested over 35 times. The Mabvuku activist was a friend and inspiration to myself and many other comrades in the struggle. Also known as the ‘Sargent’, Tonderai had a great political sense of humour. Once when the police were hunting for him he joined the search party without them realising who he was and twice he escaped from police custody by simply jumping out of a moving truck.<span “font-size:10.0pt;font-family:times;mso-fareast-font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”;mso-bidi-font-family:”times=”” roman”;mso-ansi-language:=”” en-zw”=””>


I remember joining Tonderai on one of the many actions he organized: a protest in his Mabvuku neighbourhood against poor service delivery. Tonderai’s tactics were always street smart: there had been mysterious letters delivered to residents from ‘the council’ inviting them for a meeting at their Mabvuku offices to discuss the dire water situation and the exorbitant council bills. So residents gathered at the offices with Tonderai leading the public interrogation of the inept council officers about why they were failing in their service delivery to the community. After a while the police arrived in their Santanas and the protesters dispered across the township. My two comrades and I escaped through back-alleys and managed to get back into town. But Tonderai stayed. He wasn’t going anywhere. Mabvuku was his community and if anyone had an issue with him organizing a protest they could come knocking on his door. And one day they did.

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Itai follows in the same activist lineage as Tonderai: a brave soul who aims to bring ordinary citizens together as a powerful force for change in the country. Itai drew the inspiration for his Occupy Africa Unity Square movement from the grassroots-driven Occupy protests in the USA and the ground-breaking people’s movement in Egypt that occupied Tahrir Square. Itai’s only crime was to peacefully protest and attempt to mobilise citizens. Itai and Tonderai are the brave souls a country needs to spark the rest of us citizens into action. Their actions are many small fires that should one day lead to an inferno. Their courage should galvanise us to be part of the change we want to see. I remember some people commenting at the time of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protests that Itai was mad to carry out such an action in the face of such a brutal police state. No. We were mad not to join him.

Source: – www.comradefatso.weebly.com

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263Chat is a Zimbabwean media organisation focused on encouraging & participating in progressive national dialogue

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