The Mystery of Itai Dzamara

zim-ren-3Itai Dzamara is a Zimbabwean journalist and political activist. He has a wife and two children. On March 9 2015, Itai Dzamara was abducted from a barbershop in the Harare neighborhood of Glen View. He has not been seen since.

Understandably, anxiety is growing among Zimbabweans and others concerning Itai’s whereabouts. I mean, candidly speaking, it is not comfortable to think that we live in a society where people can be abducted in broad daylight in public and then disappear without trace.

Like others, I have been reading the various commentaries concerning the case of Itai Dzamara. Categorically, the state has stated that it is not responsible for Itai Dzamara’s disappearance, and that in fact Itai Dzamara may have staged the whole affair for his own reasons.

The state’s position on the matter has been met with suspicion by opposition politicians, civil society groups and various commentators on the basis that Zimbabwean state operatives have been accused of committing similar acts in the past.

For instance, Alex Magaisa (a solid legal mind and a decent writer) points to state sponsored human rights violations between 1980 and 2008 as indirect evidence that the state has an invisible hand in the matter.

Nevertheless, after sifting through online and print information available on Itai Dzamara to date, it does seem as if certain politicians are using the Itai Dzamara matter for political expediency. However, it also true to say that Zimbabweans are weary of living in a state of fear and intimidation, and perhaps that is why the issue has caught the attention of so many.

Agreeing to disagree

Now, no two people are exactly the same. Human beings will always have divergent views on issues, and I suppose that Itai has his own political opinions which may be different to mine.

Personally, I left Zimbabwe in 2002 and I lived, worked and studied in South Africa up to postgraduate level. During that time, I had several discussions centered on Zimbabwean politics with all sorts of people.

I also attended many symposiums and “talk shops” on what was referred to at that time as “the Zimbabwe issue.” At these conferences, I interacted with people of different political persuasions; some people were more radical in their views than others were, and some people were more emotional than others. It is conceivable that Itai would fall into the category of political radicals.

However, the point I am trying to establish is that no matter how heated some of these discussions would get, participants would always agree to disagree. This is because ultimately, at the core of every discussion was the contemplation: how do we rebuild Zimbabwe?

It is on this basis that I would have liked to talk with Itai.

If I had met him prior to March 9, I would have liked to chat with him and ask him how he intended to rebuild Zimbabwe given his approach. Furthermore, I’d have liked to hear his political intentions both as an individual and as the leader of his “Occupy Africa Unity Square” movement.

Although I may have disagreed with him politically, it would have been good to hear why he thought that what he was doing in Africa Unity Square was more important than participating in an election as the leader of his own political movement.

I would also have enjoyed speaking with him about his career as a journalist, and whether or not he really believed that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Unfortunately, most of us only know Itai for his abduction.

I would also point him to two pieces that I wrote in 2011, namely what happens in Libya, stays in Libya (https://zimrays.org/2011/04/01/what-happens-in-libya-stays-in-libya/) and Egypt Where is your victory? (https://zimrays.org/2011/03/29/egypt-where-is-your-victory/).

In view of the fact that the movement he leads (Occupy Africa Unity Square) was premised on events that occurred during the Arab Spring such as the occupation of Tahrir Square in Egypt, I’d have liked to hear his thoughts on the state of Egypt’s political economy today, and whether or not the Arab Spring did that country any good.

Unfortunately, Libya is today a rogue state, which is run by rogue militias, some of which are allegedly supplying arms to radical and roguish movements like Boko Haram. In other words, four years on Libya is worse than what it was before the Arab Spring.

Zimbabwean Society and Rogue Elements

Of course, he would have his own opinions on these matters, as he is entitled to. In addition, he would probably point to the Zimbabwean constitution and its consequent clauses which guarantee citizens freedom of expression, association and movement.

However, I would still try to explain to him that although we live in a country that guarantees each of us constitutional rights, we also live with rogue elements among us who have neither understanding of, nor respect for constitutional rights.

For example, we have heard of women who walked through certain sections of town where they suffered the experience of being stripped naked because they were wearing mini-skirts. This happened, despite that the constitution allows them to wear mini-skirts.

Here’s the thing: we must remember that rogue elements do not appreciate the constitution and for that reason, I would not encourage anyone to walk through town dressed like that, simply because of the risk involved. Similarly, I would not have encouraged Itai to try to occupy Africa Unity Square.

The same is true in business. We have rogue elements among us who fleece and loot public entities in spite of the law. Look at what was recently uncovered at Air Zimbabwe.

A local court found that the airline lost nearly USD10 million between 2009 and 2013 in a “well planned and well executed” aviation insurance fraud, which a magistrate said was “pre-planned” by its top executives who circumvented procurement procedures. Those executives acted roguishly, even at the expense of the airline’s employees (some of which have not been paid since 2009) and the wider public.

Look, we also have religious rogues in our midst. For instance, who remembers the members of the “Vapostori” religious sect who thought that it was okay to assault police officers? Those are rogue elements, hiding behind the constitutional right to religious freedom.

I mean look, elsewhere, we even have roguish pastor/prophets who think that it is okay to make their congregants eat snakes, grass and drink paraffin. Why on earth, then, did Itai decide to put himself in the firing line of political rogues?

If we have rogues in churches and rogues in business, how much more should we expect rogues in our politics? Surely he could have made his point using other means such as journalism perhaps?

church member eats grass

In any case, while I’m on the point of churches, I wonder if one of Zimbabwe’s several self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ will stand up and tell the country where Itai Dzamara is. After all, they seem to have a knack for making political predictions.

At the end of the day, my thoughts are with Itai Dzamara’s family and I hope that he returns to them in one piece.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

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