Remember the other victims too

It is a noble thing that human rights defenders, clergymen, political parties and other like-minded stakeholders have kept the abduction of Itai Dzamara alive by holding prayer meetings for him in different parts of the country.

Itai Dzamara

Itai Dzamara

It is also laudable that diplomats continue to issue statements to remind President Robert Mugabe and his government of their constitutional obligation to establish the facts surrounding the disappearance of the journalist-turned-political activist.
My heart bleeds for Itai’s abduction. He was a friend and I found him very articulate when we shared the platform on radio talk shows. He had gusto and clarity of vision. I also admired his combative spirit when he organised and led the Occupy Africa Unity Square demos. I naturally empathised with him and his family when, on March 9, I learnt of his disappearance. I went through a similar episode on September 9, 2002 and know what such an ordeal means to family, friends and compatriots.
However, it seems that there is something missing in these separate campaigns by those who respect human rights and democratic governance. I am firmly persuaded that, for the campaigns to have a global reach, they must go beyond Itai and factor in other people who have met the same fate, or are victims of Zanu (PF)’s contempt for human rights.

Unaccounted for
Over the decades, dozens of people who were deemed critical of or a threat to Mugabe and his party disappeared. Some were later found dead. Others remain unaccounted for to date. Names that readily come to mind are Tonderai Ndira, an MDC activist whose body was discovered some time after he disappeared in 2008, Maxwell Ncube, an MDC-N election agent who was found axed in August 2011, Patrick Nabanyama, who disappeared and was found dead. He was David Coltart’s election agent in 2000.
Then there are scores of unsung opposition supporters or candidates who just disappeared into thin air. Their families are still wondering what happened to them. Add to that numerous other prominent cases of disappearances and obvious murders that happened prior to the formation of the MDC in 1999.
These include Rashiwe Guzha, who was ostensibly killed by a senior CIO officer, Captain Nleya, in the 1980s for reportedly holding dark secrets on poaching by senior government and Zanu (PF) heavies. Thousands also disappeared during the ‘80s Gukurahundi blitz that killed more than 20,000 according to CCJP.

Painful mystery
Widows still wondering what happened totheir sons and daughters cannot understand what happened to their fathers or mothers. They will forever hold a big lump in their hearts for growing up in incomplete families—if they were not orphaned in the first place—because of the abductions, torture, disappearances and murder.
Thus, prayer meetings that are currently taking place in memory of Itai, whose whereabouts remain a painful mystery, must go beyond this. They must be all-embracing and bring in the names and memories of those I have listed above and many more victims. There is therefore need to transform the Dzamara prayer meetings into a national convention that honours the unsung victims and reminds the sitting government of how much blood is dripping from its hands. My hope is that, one day, we will see human rights defenders and pro-democracy stakeholders remembering Itai among thousands of others who have been killed, maimed or tortured.
By limiting the prayer meetings to Itai, the conveners run into the obvious danger of localising the extent of the intransigencies of Mugabe and Zanu (PF) in the eyes of Zimbabweans and the rest of the world. It gives the impression that this is the only human rights contravention that we have suffered.
Yes, Itai’s abduction is gruesome and must be condemned in the angriest of tones, but we need to broaden the tent to include those other victims. Once that is done, opposition political parties will escape the real possibility of being interpreted as capitalising on a sad event for their own political mileage. They would have displayed the capacity to remember beyond recent events. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

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