HARARE – Zimbabweans reacted with a mixture of shock, horror and anger yesterday after a sickening picture believed to be of abducted journalist-turned-democracy activist Itai Dzamara, allegedly held in captivity by authorities, was released by his brother.
Patson Dzamara, a medical doctor and the younger brother of Itai, also told a media conference that was held in Harare earlier yesterday that he believed that the country’s feared military intelligence had been responsible for the missing social justice campaigner’s brazen abduction last year.
“Some individuals from within the evil establishment volunteered information regarding who abducted Itai Dzamara, why and where he was kept. The heinous act was executed by State security agents, in particular the military intelligence,” the emotional Patson said.
Repeated efforts by the Daily News to get comment on the claims from army spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Alphios Makotore drew a blank, with his colleagues in the directorate of public relations requesting written questions which had not been responded to at the time of going to press.
The picture, believed to be that of abducted pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara, was presented at a press conference by his brother Partson in Harare yesterday.
Patson, who has worked tirelessly to get to the bottom of his elder brother’s abduction and disappearance, said he was not yet at liberty to reveal more details about Itai’s whereabouts and whether the pro-democracy activist was dead or alive.
However, he told the dismayed gathered journalists that Itai was in Zimbabwe.
“Incontestable evidence was availed to us and I dare Mr Mugabe (President Robert Mugabe) and his surrogates to prove me wrong. They can’t, because this is the truth. They thought they would get away with this evil deed as usual, but not this time around. They pressed the wrong button.
“I cannot at this juncture state my brother’s fate in the hands of these gangsters but I can categorically inform you that Itai Dzamara was abducted by the military intelligence under the direct instruction and supervision of Zanu PF,” Patson said.
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo told the Daily News: “How can he (Patson) say the whole party is responsible? If he knows who did it, he should go to the police and make a formal report.”
Dzamara was abducted close to his Harare home on March 9 last year and has not been seen or heard from since, with civil society organisations, opposition parties and western powers demanding his release.
After his broad-daylight abduction in the high-density suburb of Glen View, Dzamara’s wife approached the High Court in a bid to force the police and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to search for her husband.
During the hearing, both the police and CIO denied knowledge of his whereabouts, with authorities saying that investigations into the abduction had hit a dead end.
Still, Judge David Mangota ordered the police and CIO “to do all things necessary to determine his whereabouts”, including advertising the case in State media.
Mangota also said detectives should work with Dzamara’s lawyers “to search for him at all such places as may be within their jurisdiction” and periodically report their progress to the court.
Patson told journalists yesterday that the evidence that he and private investigators had and were consolidating had proved beyond reasonable doubt who was behind his brother’s 15-month disappearance.
This information had come from highly-placed sources in Zanu PF and the intelligence, he added.
Patson also revealed that while he was being assaulted for staging a one-man demonstration against Mugabe on Independence Day this year, thuggish police had also said to him that they would take him where his brother was.
But the picture that he released yesterday which he believed was that of Itai in captivity proved too much for many Zimbabweans, with others who have lost their loved ones to State-initiated thuggery calling on the region and the rest of the international community to intervene.
The released and harrowing picture showed a man, with his face covered in bandages, sitting with his hands tied on his back in a place with a black plastic background.
“The picture we have of Itai has been validated as authentic. He is covered in bandages because he may have been tortured and sustained injuries on his face. They are also covering his mouth so that he does not speak,” Patson said, adding that his own personal fight no longer revolved solely around Itai, but also ensuring that the entire country would be free from Zanu PF’s “heinous acts”.
He also savaged police for failing to come up with any leads on the matter, despite having managed to arrest, in no time, suspects who were linked to the alleged murder of Air Zimbabwe public relations executive Shingai Dhliwayo.
“The complete refusal to comment by key State officials, including (Mr Robert) Mugabe is curious. The few times key State officials have commented, they have trivialised the matter, uttering irresponsible statements such as that there was nothing unusual about Itai’s disappearance and that the president is too busy to comment on such a trivial matter,” Patson said.
Previously explaining his boss’ silence over the matter, Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba has said Dzamara was not deserving of the president’s attention.
“People go missing here and elsewhere in the world. I dismiss calls for the president to pronounce himself on the matter as pre-eminently political and thus not worthy of his attention.
“In our case, some skip the borders to go to foreign lands, others get caught up in mishaps and still others might just change location and withdraw from contacts. The fact of the missing persons need not indict sitting governments the way it is playing out here,” he said.
Charamba also suggested that Dzamara’s abduction and disappearance could have been staged by the opposition in a bid to revive its allegedly waning fortunes.
“It is clear to government that there is a vain hope to use the missing person for political parties to regain political foothold and mileage and in the case of foreign interests to put Zimbabwe back in the dock.
“It leaves government wondering whether or not the whole incident is not a politically calculated contrivance. Before long, investigations shall reveal,” Charamba said.