In Zimbabwe, missing activist’s family still holds out hope

Harare -  The wife of a missing Zimbabwean activist who was abducted by suspected state agents in 2015 after urging then-President Robert Mugabe to resign said on Tuesday that she hopes the country's new leader will shed light on what happened to her husband.

Itai Dzamara

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a close ally of Mugabe for decades, can prove he is different from his predecessor by resolving the case of Itai Dzamara, one of the few activists at the time who was regularly protesting in the streets for the ouster of the longtime ruler, Sheffra Dzamara said.

“I hope the new president will do something,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press at her home in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. “Even if they’ve killed him, I just want his body so that we have closure.”

Itai Dzamara, a former newspaper reporter, was accosted by five men when he was in a barbershop near his home and was bundled into a waiting car on March 9, 2015. Two days before his abduction, Dzamara said at a rally organized by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that Zimbabweans should rebel against Mugabe.

Police have previously said they were investigating the activist’s disappearance, though the lack of progress drew criticism that it was not a serious inquiry.

Mugabe, who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980, resigned on November 21 after a military takeover that set off a nationwide clamor for the 93-year-old leader to quit.

Since becoming president, Mnangagwa has called for national reconciliation but has not addressed allegations of human rights violations at a time when he was a top official in Mugabe’s government.

Mnangagwa was justice minister at the time of Dzamara’s disappearance and did not respond to a letter asking him for help in the case, said Dzamara’s brother, Patson.

Mnangagwa “was part of the government which led Zimbabwe to where it is right now,” but should be given a chance to lead the country on a reform path, he said.

Patson Dzamara spoke of the citywide celebrations last week after Mugabe’s resignation was announced during impeachment proceedings by lawmakers against him. The activist’s brother joined a jubilant crowd.

“I was also excited. In that excitement, something struck me,” he said. “I remembered my brother, and that was it. It was enough to break me down. I broke down. I wept like a baby.”

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