Rights activists in Zimbabwe marked the one-year anniversary Wednesday of the disappearance of journalist and fellow political activist Itai Dzamara.
The activists, marching in Harare, called for the return of Dzamara, who was abducted after a series of demonstrations against the rule of President Robert Mugabe. Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai addressed the activists, saying that Dzamara's disappearance represented "the unacceptable face of this government that just embarks on abducting people just because they have a different view."
The march materialized after activists took the government to court for initially barring the protest. Police maintained a heavy presence during the event but did not deter activists from accusing Mugabe's government of continuing to disrespect human rights.
Human rights lawyers say the government has not complied with a High Court order compelling security forces, including the p olice, to look for Dzamara, but Zimbabwean police spokeswoman Charity Charamba dismissed the accusation, saying the critics were "not informed."
"We have been doing quite a lot behind the scenes to establish who could have abducted him and where is he," Charamba said. "But we have failed so far. But still we are appealing for information from anybody else who might have knowledge of where Itai Dzamara is."
She said the government had put up a $10,000 reward for information about Dzamara.
Police maintained a heavy presence at a Harare protest march but did not deter activists from accusing President Robert Mugabe’s government of failing to respect human rights, March 9, 2016. (S. Mhofu/VOA)
Itai Dzamara's brother Pattison said he was skeptical of the police response.
"For them to actually fail to come up with at least one explanation, that is very curious," he said. "It only cements our suspicion [about] what we believed happened. It is police, it is the state security agents — whether this was sanctioned from the top or its elements within the system, it is boiling to one thing: The system is responsible. [The ruling] ZANU-PF [party] and security agents are responsible for this."
No African government has voiced concern about the missing activist; only Western institutions and governments have spoken up. On Wednesday, the European Union, Canada and the United States issued statements calling for Harare to scale up efforts to locate Dzamara.