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AFP | FRIDAY MARCH 10 2017 | DAILY NATION
HARARE – Western officials in Zimbabwe criticised the authorities on Thursday over the investigation into the abduction of a leading critic of President Robert Mugabe two years ago. The case of Itai Dzamara, a journalist and activist who vanished after five men dragged him from a barber shop near his home in Harare, is often used by the international community to highlight rights abuses in the country.
Dzamara was taken on March 9, 2015, just days after he spoke at an opposition rally against state repression and the government’s economic record. “The United States remains deeply concerned about Mr Dzamara’s whereabouts and well-being,” the US embassy said in a statement to mark the second anniversary of Dzamara’s disappearance.
“The lack of progress in this case raises doubts about the intention of the authorities responsible for the investigation. “We again call on Zimbabwean authorities… to ensure that those responsible are brought to book.”
Dzamara had led anti-government protests in a public park in Harare, vowing to continue until Mugabe stepped down. During one of the protests he was beaten by activists of the ruling ZANU-PF party and left bleeding on a pavement.
Frustration at Zimbabwe’s economic collapse under the authoritarian regime of Mugabe, who turned 93 last month, prompted a series of large street protests last year, with many demonstrators beaten by security forces.
“The fate of Mr Dzamara remains unknown and his family continues to fear for his life,” the European Union’s delegation in Zimbabwe said. “The Zimbabwean authorities (should) ascertain Mr Dzamara’s whereabouts and to ensure that justice is served.”
Though the country’s high court ordered police to investigate Dzamara’s disappearance and provide regular updates, detectives have so far failed to report their progress. Evan Mawarire, a pastor who led the mass protests last year, joined a commemoration in Harare to mark Dzamara’s disappearance.
“It’s heart-breaking that a person is taken against their will when they have committed no crime and to have no explanation,” Mawarire told the small gathering which included Dzamara’s wife, mother and brother. “Some of us are the lucky ones that have lived to tell the story — the story of being brutalised, harassed… being declared persona non grata.”
Amnesty International called for those involved in Dzamara’s disappearance to “be held to account” and urged members of the public to email Mugabe about the case. The Australian embassy said “impunity for perpetrators of rights violations must not go unchallenged”.
The government has denied accusations that it was involved in Dzamara’s disappearance and has said it had no information on his fate.