Men and women today broke down in tears as church representatives combined voices with seven political entities in condemning President Robert Mugabe’s government for the March abduction of Itai Dzamara.
Dzamara, a journalist and civil rights activist, was taken away by unidentified men on March 9 and his whereabouts remain a mystery.
More than 2,000 people from different religious backgrounds, civil society and political parties today gathered at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare’s Highfield suburb for a prayer meeting in commemoration of Dzamara’s disappearance.
The journalist-turned-activist was abducted a day after addressing a gathering called by MDC-T at the same venue.
Dzamara’s wife, holding their youngest child in her arms, was overwhelmed by emotion and wept uncontrollably alongside numerous women and men when congregants sang religious songs in remembrance of the activist.
Political parties showed rare unity by attending the ceremony that started in the afternoon and condemning Mugabe and security agents for failing to prevent and act on Dzamara’s abduction.
Leaders or representatives of MDC-T, People First, Mavambo, Zapu, Renewal Team and Transform Zimbabwe and the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) were present, among them Morgan Tsvangirai and most of his top leadership, Simba Makoni, Jabulani Sibanda, Temba Mliswa and Jacob Ngarivhume.
Tsvangirai, who spoke last in late afternoon, got the wildest cheers from the crowd as he took to the podium and hailed the prayer meeting as a historic gathering.
“For the first time, there is a convergence on what needs to be done to bring Zimbabwe back on track. We have raised the bar and never again in Zimbabwe will a person disappear without trace and nothing is done about it.
“Our message to Mugabe and his security agents is: bring Itai Dzamara back alive or dead. We want him here alive. If he is alive, we want to know to what extent his abductors tortured him. If he is dead, we want to see his body,” said Tsvangirai.
He said the time for a national convergence had arrived and people must put their political differences aside and confront Mugabe’s government.
Makoni spoke on behalf of the political parties and delivered their joint statement in the wake of Dzamara’s abduction.
The position paper, which all the leaders of the political formations signed—Tendai Biti of Renewal Team who was absent included—noted that it was Mugabe’s duty to establish and bring to finality what happened to Dzamara.
“The fact that he was abducted after attending a rally here shows that he was taken by those that are against democratic change,” declared Makoni.
“We strongly condemn the inability of the government to bring back Dzamara and we are concerned that Mugabe and his lieutenants have shown no care over Itai. This is a call for them to bring back Itai Dzamara today,” he added.
Ngarivhume rapped the police for stepping into the arena as political leaders spoke and urged the congregants to confront Ignatius Chombo, the new home affairs minister, after the meeting.
“Instead of going back home, let’s go and confront Chombo and get answers on what his ministry is doing with Dzamara’s disappearance,” said Ngarivhume.
Jabulani Sibanda, who came as a representative of People First, the outfit comprising fired Zanu (PF) rebels, received a standing ovation from the crowd when he spoke and called on the removal of the Mugabe government.
He was saluted by Morgan Tsvangirai who shook his hands after delivering his speech.
Sibanda had no kind words for western diplomats who he said had chosen to keep quiet over the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres which killed more than 20,000 civilians when Mugabe’s security agents descended on southern Zimbabwe purportedly to stop a military insurgency shortly after independence in 1980.
Mliswa urged parliamentarians to use parliament to pressure Mugabe to make an official statement on Dzamara.
A declaration condemning the abduction and endorsed by the political leaders, civil society representatives and church leaders was made at the end of the ceremony.
Tsvangirai’s wife, Elizabeth, donated an assortment of groceries while congregants raised more than $1,000 dollars and Mliswa pledged a tonne of maize towards the upkeep of Dzamara’s family.