Today marks the anniversary of the abduction and disappearance of Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara.
Dzamara, a former journalist, was abducted by five unidentified men on March 9, 2015, while he was at a barbershop in Glen View, a suburb of Harare. Two days before his abduction, Dzamara spoke at a rally in the capital city, urging citizens to take mass action against the economic deterioration afflicting Zimbabwe. The abductors told the activist that he was being arrested for stealing cattle and subsequently forced him into an unmarked white truck, according to witnesses.
Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, is calling on authorities to initiate an investigation into Dzamara’s disappearance and to establish a commission of inquiry led by an impartial judge that would examine the circumstances of his disappearance.
“It has been a year since Itai Dzamara was disappeared without a trace, leaving his family in agonizing uncertainty about his fate and whereabouts. This appears to be a well-orchestrated plot to silence a well-known government critic, and is a deeply troubling indictment of the state of freedom and expression in Zimbabwe.”
Amnesty International is urging Zimbabwe to “live up to its constitutional and international law obligations” by ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
Dzamara’s 2015 abduction is not the first time the Zimbabwean government has used force to silence its critics.
In 2008, dozens of activists disappeared for weeks and many were later found in state custody, despite the government denying involvement. Dzamara had previously been unlawfully arrested, beaten, and detained by state security forces for his criticism of President Mugabe’s government. He led the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest group and petitioned President Mugabe to resign and pave the way for new elections.
While Dzarama’s disappearance was reported at Glen Norah police station in Harare, no meaningful investigation has been made. Dzarama’s family has attempted to locate Dzarama to no avail, and his wife fears that authorities may target her or her children next.