On the morning of March 9, in front of a Harare neighborhood barbershop, five men in civilian clothes abducted journalist and activist Itai Dzamara. He was handcuffed, bundled into a white truck with no visible license plates, and has not been seen since. He has disappeared, leaving a wife and two young children behind to grieve and demand he be brought home.
Dzamara is increasingly well known as the leader of the Occupy Africa Unity Square Movement (OAUS), named after African Unity Square, a park in central Harare. Last October he called in writing for President Robert Mugabe to resign, with his replacement chosen in free and fair elections. One month later, he was beaten unconscious by anti-riot police, resulting in admittance to the intensive care unit of a local hospital. Three weeks later, four other members of OAUS were detained after a peaceful protest in the speaker’s gallery of the national Parliament. They were severely beaten over a six-hour period at a police station. Lawyers were not allowed to see the men, whom the police denied holding in the first place. They were released after being ordered to stop all demonstrations and to tell no one of their detention.
Amnesty International is very concerned about Dzamara. The organization has called upon the police to do all they can to investigate his disappearance, and if he is in state custody, to ensure that he is not tortured or ill-treated. The High Court ordered police and the state intelligence agency to investigate his disappearance. Several dozen civil society groups have signed a petition with similar demands. In response to growing unrest about the nation’s poor economy, the lack of jobs, and corruption, demonstrations broke out. Heavily armed police have been deployed in Harare, and Dzamara’s vanishing has already sparked further protests. The United States and other governments added their voices in support of finding him.
Please send faxes and e-mails to officials in Zimbabwe to let them know that you are watching the situation carefully and that you want Itai Dzamara to emerge alive and in good health. This is a crucial test of law and order in Zimbabwe, and the life of one man, an activist, husband, and father, lies in the balance.
(Contributed by Rowly Brucken, AIUSA Zimbabwe Country Specialist)