Rights groups are renewing their demand that Zimbabwean officials investigate the case of a pro-democracy activist who went missing five years ago. Itai Dzamara was a fierce critic of the late president Robert Mugabe and his former deputy, now president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On Monday, Sheffra Dzamara the wife of missing activist and journalist Itai Dzamara delivered a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s offices in Harare.
“My wish is that Mr. Mnangagwa responds to my letter and invites us — the Dzamara family and we sit down,” Dzamara said. “She wants the Zimbabwean leader help her understand what happened to her husband.
“This is important, even to the children, as they need closure or they will grow up with anger, especially the boy. If they really want to do it, within a day we would know where Itai is or what happened to him,” she added.
Itai Dzamara vanished in Harare on March 9, 2015, after going out for a haircut. Rights group Amnesty International suspects he was abducted by state security agencies.
“Imagine not being able to tell your children if they're father is alive or died,” said Robert Shivambu, the Amnesty International spokesman in southern Africa.
“Someone knows where Itai Dzamara is, but they have chosen to subject his family to five long years of uncertainty. Today, we're joining [the] family in calling on the Zimbabwean authorities to conduct a thorough independent, effective and transparent investigation into his disappearance,” Shivambu added. “We need to see any inquiry with findings that are made public and suspected perpetrators brought to justice as well as an end to the harassment and intimidation of activists and critics in Zimbabwe.”
On Monday, Ministry of Information Secretary Nick Mangwana released a statement saying the "government feels very strongly that no Zimbabwean should disappear without trace and empathizes with the Dzamara family in their quest for their loved one's safe return. To this government, every Zimbabwean counts."
However, there was no indication the government will help the family learn the whereabouts of Dzamara.
After he went missing, Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights obtained a High Court order asking police to locate the missing activist. Charles Kwaramba is one of the organization’s lawyers.
“The best I can sum it up is that it has been a tragic trail of no action,” Kwaramba said. “Nothing has happened. No serious efforts being made to ensure that closure is brought to the matter, in terms of us finding Itai or efforts to recover whatever remains of him.”
Rights groups think Dzamara was abducted because he held protests against then-president Robert Mugabe, who had been in power for 35 years at that point.
Sheffra says her two children, 12-year-old Nokutenda and 8-year-old Nenyasha, still feel their father's absence.
“My kids are still young and need daddy’s love,” Dzamara said. “Daily they ask me: When will daddy come? The boy at times asks: Mom did daddy die? It pains me as I have no answers, so they get confused. So it pains me as I do not have answers and the government does not give answers too. So it really pains me that they are growing up without their daddy and not knowing what happened to him.”
Several demonstrations to force Harare to reveal what happened to Dzamara have not yielded results. But Sheffra remains hopeful that the government will one day give her an audience — and an explanation of what happened to her husband.