Government and police’s sincerity in investigating the whereabouts of democracy activist and journalist Itai Dzamara has once again been questioned in view of recent utterances by some public officials over the issue.
By VENERANDA LANGA
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba last week appeared to imply Dzamara’s disappearance could have been stage-managed while defending President Robert Mugabe’s silence over the issue, which has attracted international condemnation.
Human rights groups told The Standard that even the $10 000 bounty that ZRP Assistant Commissioner Crispen Makedenge (CID Law and Order Division) announced on Friday for anyone with information about Dzamara’s whereabouts should have been put in place a long time ago.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda condemned what he called “scanty reports” being churned out by the police after a court order which ruled they should report regularly on progress on their investigations on the missing activist.
“The police reports on their investigations that were recently published by State media were very scanty and were based on interviews carried out with Dzamara’s brother Partson, wife Sheffra and lawyers — and they did not show that they were serious investigations done,” Mafunda said.
He criticised Charamba’s statements that even in countries like the United Kingdom there were more than 200 000 persons missing.
Charamba went on to say the media’s use of the word “abducted” was irresponsible.
“This government should be serious in terms of protecting and securing the rights of its citizens and not insult the Dzamara family. The police must produce thorough reports and not scanty, whitewashed reports,” Mafunda said.
“Our police force has been deployed for United Nations peacekeeping missions and I do not think they are deployed there on the basis of shoddy jobs and scanty reports. They get deployed because they are considered thorough and surely they should do a serious job on investigating the Dzamara issue.”
Abel Chikomo, director of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said Makedenge should first comply with the High Court order and give concrete details of what the police has done to investigate Dzamara’s disappearance.
“To start looking serious and announcing a bounty four months after Dzamara disappeared does not suggest concern and sincerity on the part of the police or government,” Chikomo said.
“It looks like they are just mimicking the calls by the international community to find him, and trying to make the world think they are doing something. We would like to see a detailed report of what the police have done after Dzamara went missing instead of merely interviewing the wife, brother and lawyers. Any person can talk to Partson or Sheffra”.
He said evidence on the ground showed that authorities had not put much effort in locating Dzamara.
“It would have shown seriousness if the police report said in the past four months they carried out hundreds of interviews, went to mortuaries and even interviewed Charamba, Fidelis Fengu and singer Energy Mutodi who claimed they had information on Dzamara’s disappearance,” Chikomo said.
“They should assist the police with the lead to where Dzamara is and a report should come out that shows whether they were lying or telling the truth, and detailing what the police do to people who give false information.”
Chikomo said recent utterances on Dzamara’s disappearance failed to be empathetic and considerate to the fact that Sheffra was in grief and that it was someone’s life at stake.
“It has been four months and it will be sad for a nation like Zimbabwe which has a progressive constitution that provides for dignity and rights to life to go for four months without responsible authorities advising the nation on tangible findings,” he said.
“It will be more sad if it were to later emerge he was dead, abducted by a political party or even individuals, and the nation failed to do something about it.”
Human rights analyst Dewa Mavhinga said government had not done enough to investigate the abduction, even in the face of a High Court order compelling them to do so.
“It is public knowledge that Itai Dzamara’s wife, through her lawyers under Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, had to approach the courts again alleging contempt of court over failure to comply with the court order to search for Dzamara and make fortnightly reports,” Mavhinga said.
“For a disappeared person who is outside the protection of the law, every passing minute counts because their safety is only guaranteed when they are brought back to the protection of the law.”
He said the governments response appeared to be a reaction to sustained and mounting international pressure.
“If they are willing, the police have the resources, capacity, and expertise to resolve the Dzamara case. But it seems state agents may have been involved in the abduction given that those who abducted Dzamara were armed and handcuffed him after he had received threats over his political activism,” Mavhinga said.
MDC Renewal spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the police report was shoddy and “imitation of Hollywood and Nigerian movies.”
“The police, like all organs of the state, seem to first check on the attitudes of the Zanu PF politburo before they spring into action,” Mafume said.
“The bounty they now offer is months offtrack and comes at a time when the trail has grown cold. Their shoddy report shows an amateur doing a first year course of detective work.”
Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment yesterday.