BULAWAYO — Missing journalist-cum activist Itai Dzamara on Friday won the Oxfam sponsored human rights defender of the year award in recognition of his role in championing people’s rights before his abduction in March this year.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Alpha Media Holdings Masvingo-based journalist, Tatenda Chitagu also received the human rights defender journalist of the year award.
Receiving the award on Dzamara’s behalf at the 4th edition of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) community human rights defenders awards, his brother Paddy said the family would continue to hold the state responsible for Itai’s disappearance.
“They thought they had killed me, I am back,” Paddy said. “I am Itai’s brother and on behalf of the family, I want to thank ZimRights for the award. As a family, we cling to hope and won’t stop demanding his return. We want closure. If he is alive, bring him back and if he is not, we must know.”
Dzamara was abducted by suspected state agents in March this year after leading a series of anti-President Robert Mugabe protests, working with a group calling itself “Occupy Africa Unity Square”.
Dzamara also sent a petition to Mugabe asking him to step down for failing to lead the country out of the economic mess.
Nine months on, his whereabouts remain a mystery, with civic society, family and friends accusing government of not doing enough to find him.
Other winners of the award included MDC-T MP for Harare West Jessie Majome, who received the people’s choice award after shrugging off competition from Hope Sadza, Dzamara and former education minister David Coltart.
“Human rights are the only wire that keeps us from going into a dungeon here in Zimbabwe,” Majome said while accepting the award.
MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe, a cancer survivor, also received an award that she dedicated to all women who succumbed to cancer.
Freelance journalist Terry Mutsvanga also won the human rights defender artist of the year, while Tariro Makanga bagged the female journalist award.
Guest of honour, deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba said civic society should continue to have their eyes on the state and defend people’s rights.
“People should be free to register [for elections] and put an X, that is what we are talking about. We are talking about theories. We are talking about ensuring that those human rights are enjoyed and that people have sadza. Why talking of human rights when you cannot talk of food. You talk of protecting human rights but I sleep outside. Your right is my right and I commit to defend your right too,” he said.
ZimRights director Okay Machisa said all human rights defenders should be saluted for their efforts.