PEN Calls on Zimbabwean Government to Clarify Fate of Missing Activist
20 Mar 2015
London, 20 March 2015
The Zimbabwean government must do all in its power to clarify the fate of political activist and former journalist Itai Dzamara following his abduction on 9 March 2015, and bring the perpetrators to justice, PEN International said today.
On 9 March 2015, Dzamara was abducted by five unidentified men at a barber shop in Harare. The men accused him of cattle theft, handcuffed him and bundled him into an unmarked van, according to news reports. He has not been heard from since.
On 13 March the country’s high court ordered the police and state intelligence agency to search for Dzamara and work closely with the family’s lawyer. The investigation is thought to be ongoing.
While the Zimbabwean authorities officially deny any involvement in Dzamara’s abduction or knowledge of his whereabouts, Dzamara’s family are less than convinced, given the authorities’ past precedent for the harassment and persecution of supporters of the opposition.
During the 2008 elections, Zimbabwe’s military, state security agents, and supporters of the ruling party killed at least 200 opposition supporters, and beat and tortured some 5,000 others. To date the state has failed to provide the victims with redress for the violations suffered.
Dzamara was the editor of the News Leader newspaper which he founded in 2008. Prior to that he worked for various publications including the Zimbabwe Independent, the Standard and the Zimbabwean. In October 2014 he suspended its publication in order to focus on his political activism. The same month he submitted a petition to President Mugabe calling for his resignation.
Since then, Dzamara has led a pro-democracy movement known as Occupy Africa Unity Square, which calls for Mugabe’s resignation. In November 2014, he was beaten by police in Africa Unity Square.
Two days before his abduction he delivered a speech at an opposition rally in Harare, offering solidarity with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party for mass protests against the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.