Unpacking the Dzamara saga

via Unpacking the Dzamara saga | The Herald July 21, 2015 by Monica Cheru Mpambawashe

THERE is no escaping that Itai Dzamara has become the topic of the moment. The offer of a financial inducement by the police for information on his whereabouts proves that this is no longer a game.

For most Zimbabweans outside opposition politics, the name Itai Dzamara has only become known in the past few days as the mainstream media has taken the story up.

To solve the enigma, one needs to outline what we know and from there figure out what is missing, then how and where to find the missing pieces.

So who is Itai Dzamara?

Western diplomats and aligned activists have told the world that Dzamara is a journalist and activist.

The irony is that media practice standards from the same places say that a journalist cannot be an activist as this compromises their ethics.

Dzamara was discredited professionally for turning a tale he heard in the bar into an article.

He claimed that he had information from highly-placed Government sources confirming the exploitation of uranium deposits in Kanyemba in some nefarious alliance between Zimbabwe and Iran.

But Dzamara’s claim to fame- we are told by the West, was handing a petition to President Mugabe.

We are not told the number of signatures on this famous petition-perhaps one?

Then there was his Occupy Africa Unity Square damp squib.

He tried to get involved in other things including rounding up a handful of shiftless youths to go around blowing whistles to no apparent effect beyond irritating ordinary citizens in the environs.

Dzamara would make claims of crowds being with him and having brought Harare to a halt on one or the other of his undertakings.

But the truth is that he would only have very few companions and no one took any notice of them as evidenced by the pictures he posted on his Facebook page.

Dzamara then hooked up with Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and turned up at one of his rallies before disappearing.

Dzamara would not have been recognised by anyone in the streets of Harare, a fact he buttressed on his own wall when he explained that an airtime vendor who greeted him by name turned out to be one of his supporters who had been with him on some escapade.

What happened?

According to eyewitnesses, the two barber brothers — Wellington and Tichaona Deketeke —on March 8 2015 shortly after 10am, the following events took place:

Itai Dzamara came in for a haircut at the barber shop which he had used for some time. The barbers and Dzamara knew each other from the neighbourhood. There was one other client in the shop at the time.

Two apparently affable men walked in and asked for Telecel air time.

One barber directed them to another place nearby as he did not have the product in stock.

One of the two men then indicated that they were cops and they were looking for a stock thief who happened to be one of the clients.

The barbers moved to one side to give the purported cops room to do their thing. This gave them a view to the outside.

They asked one client if he was Itai Dzamara and the man said no. They then moved to the other one who admitted that he was the right man. Deketeke says at that point the whole atmosphere changed and the two men’s demeanour became menacing.

They told Dzamara to stand up and immediately handcuffed him.

He asked what rustling case they meant and the men said he would hear full details at the police station.

Meanwhile, the barber says a double cab vehicle with only the driver on board had made a three point turn to stop right in front of the shack.

Dzamara was hustled out towards the car.

He told the men that he had forgotten his mobile phone on the counter and they allowed him to go back for it, albeit accompanied by the man with a hold on his collar from the back.

Deketeke noted the oddity of the registration number of the truck which was folded to cover some of the digits and memorised what he could see.

Meanwhile, two men approached the truck from the back, incidentally from the direction of Dzamara’s house.

After grabbing his handset, Dzamara was bundled into the car with one of the men literally pushing him in. The other two men got into the back.

The car took off and drove away without much drama.

The only other person in sight beside the two barbers and the client was a cobbler seated a few metres away who claimed to have seen nothing.

What is striking

about this story?

First of all, the expression “mbavha yemombe” which literally translates into rustler may have been the biggest red herring planted.

In street lingo, that expression does not necessarily refer to stock theft and simply means that the speaker has issues with the person referred to.

Secondly, there is nothing to show that the men were indeed cops. Handcuffs can be bought in several places in town for $20.

Third point is that Dzamara, a self-appointed human rights defender, did not ask for identification from these people who claimed to be police.

Fourthly, when they told him that he would hear explanations at the station Dzamara did not ask the supposed policemen which station.

Fifth: Dzamara did not ask the barbers to inform his wife that he had been taken in an odd manner.

Deketeke only took it upon himself later to send a message by word of mouth to Dzamara’s wife when he saw a neighbour go past.

The sixth question is why was the registration number partly obscured in a manner that called attention to it if it was not a false one?

Seventh, why did the grab happen in the barbershop with three witnesses and possible fourth one to remain behind with so much detail? Would it not have been smarter to just grab Dzamara as he walked along the road?

Who has got Dzamara?

To find out where Dzamara is in whatever state, one would have to figure out who has him?

And in this case the most obvious place to start looking is motive. Who stands to benefit from Dzamara’s disappearance?

The Government of Zimbabwe

Because Dzamara was said to have been taken by the police, we have heard people implying or outright stating that he has been taken by the Government of Zimbabwe. But what motive would they have?

Dzamara did not have any crowd pull factor. By aligning himself to Tsvangirai’s questionable star it meant that his fortunes were now linked to those of that ill-fated movement.

But for the Government, Dzamara’s presence was a very minor irritant.

But now 133 days after his disappearance, they find that they have to find him if only to clear their name after the insinuations and outright accusations flying around. So their motive would appear highly complex and nothing that any layman could decipher.

Itai Dzamara

There are those who subscribe to the theory of Dzamara having been the author of his own disappearance. Certainly all his dreams of having the Government sit up and take notice have come true.

He also laid groundwork with many unsubstantiated Facebook posts about State security agents following him, his relatives and supporters.

And there is no denying that he would return to a society where his stature would be much improved after this whole debacle with international awards and donor funds galore for his “pains”.

But would he punish his family in this manner for so long, unless they are all brilliant actors who are in it with him?

The third force

Even if one were to buy the theory that Dzamara engineered the disappearing act, he would still need accomplices.

And we are not talking about people of the calibre of his whistle-blowing boys.

But people with resources to spirit him into the thin air and the logistical capacity and acumen to pull off the whole thing.

They rightly predicted that the State and most citizens would not be unduly alarmed by Dzamara’s disappearance until enough time had passed for them to obliterate all tracks. Could these people possibly include rogue elements within the State security organs?

The prediction of Dzamara’s disappearance by Mkhululi Chimoio a day before it happened seems to point to a leak that was swiftly plugged. This is where the Western world, MDC-T and the Mujuru cabal come in.

It seems that they have concluded that they can convince the world that the Government of Zimbabwe took Dzamara and this is a valid reason for renewed demonisation of Zimbabwe. The end of game seems rather apparent; any hook by which to sink Mugabe by cannot be considered too desperate.

What next?

The police need to go back and start their investigations again from scratch, but this time asking more than just what and when questions.

One question that begs asking is why Dzamara?

There are many other activists who have been at it for years who have built far more respectable brands around their activities and utterances.

Could Dzamara have been the ideal candidate just because he was the one joker in the pack, the one person whose disappearance would produce no immediate heated reactions? Is it possible for Mkhululi Chimoio to be made to explain his spot on prediction?

Energy Mutodi also needs to come up with a feasible explanation of how he came up with his Botswana extrapolation.

A physical drawing of the folded registration number plate would be good.

Incidentally, an audit of the barber shop’s accounts over the past few months to track the money for the recent upgrade would also make sense.

The answers to Dzamara’s disappearance did not follow him into thin air.

They just need to be teased out.