SATURDAY May 9 was exactly two months since journalist-turned-activist Itai Dzamara was abducted from a barbershop close to his Glen View home in Harare by suspected state agents over what has widely been believed to be his strong views against President Robert Mugabe’s continued leadership.
NewZimbabwe.com’s Nkosana Dlamini (ND) rang up Itai’s brother and family spokesperson Patson Dzamara (PD) to hear how the family has been coping so far.
Below is the transcript of the interview;
ND: It has been two months since Itai was abducted, how has life been for the family during the period?
PD: It’s been a very disturbing, challenging season when one of us is missing and remains unaccounted for. We really don’t know what happened or what is happening to him since the day he was abducted. That’s really inflicting psychological and emotional pain and torture on us because there is no closure as it were.
ND: Speaking of his children especially the older one Nokutenda who is seven, does he understand what really is happening?
PD: Oh yes, he has an idea of what happened. At times he becomes a bit inquisitive and starts asking when his dad is coming back. I think it’s been eating him up. He does not understand the gravity of the situation but he certainly has an idea that his dad is missing as a result of his activism. There are days when his dad had to be taken for his activism and he could also visit him in hospital.
ND: How has the family been affected by the intense publicity that followed Itai’s disappearance?
PD: Of course we hear and read a lot of versions, a lot of theories as pertains to his fate and also hear a lot of other articulations as to what led to his abduction. So we have realised that people have the freedom to speak but at times we realise that people speak on our behalf, as if it’s us who are speaking. It’s something that we have also learnt to accept although where necessary we take the necessary steps and measures to correct that.
There are times when some fly-by-night journalists speak as if they are quoting us when we have not talked to them. We are really not concerned that much as far as what people say; how they say it – it’s up to them. What we can only do is to continue to pile up pressure for the release of Itai because we still hope and believe he is alive and whoever is responsible we believe that justice will catch up with them one day.
ND: When you say fly-by-night journalists, what do you mean?
PD: Let me give you an example. Sometimes l wake up and l read stuff about Itai and l am quoted as having said something and yet l would not have spoken to anyone. These are people pushing their own agendas, their own missions whoever they are but we have gone into a place where we have learnt to accept that.
ND: We know of a prayer gathering that was done some weeks ago for Itai, what else has happened or have you done as a family in your efforts to try and locate him?
PD: We have been working with our legal teams and to some extent with the police and the civic society and other concerned organisations like churches which have also come through to offer help.
ND: Some Zanu PF people say you have a genuine case of a family member disappearing but have allowed it to be hijacked by politicians seeking relevance, how would you respond to that?
PD: No, it’s neither here nor there; but whoever is anti-Zanu PF would take that as an opportunity to gain mileage which can be understandable sometimes. But l would be honest with you. The people we have worked with have been forthcoming and l believe that they have been doing that from the stand point of compassion and the desire to see to it that justice prevails.
Of course there have been some instances where we have had certain people approaching us saying they know where Itai is and they want money etcetera and we have said, ‘no, look there is actually even a reward to whoever has information. Why don’t you follow the proper channels that have been set as opposed to coming through that angle if you genuinely want to assist?
ND: Some NGOs have accused police of doing nothing to find Itai, do you share that view?
PD: Well, l have said this before and l will say it here categorically. Look, l told the police guys who are investigating this matter that you know what, l find it a bit awkward and weird that they are our foremost suspects as far as his missing is concerned. Not necessarily them, per se, but the system they work with could be responsible. So, for us to expect much from them is really unfeasible and as such honestly l never expected much from them.
ND: Looking back at his convictions, did you at any point as a family seek to persuade him to abandon his campaigns and how easy was this?
PD: I know for a fact that our parents tried to talk him out of that but l must also hasten to say that what he was doing was not wrong because he was referring to the provisions of his constitutional rights. That’s number one; number two, he did not do anything to harm anyone. And so when they tried to talk him out of that it was from the stand point of concern because they know how ruthless the system is and they also know how less conducive the environment is as well.
ND: As a family do you see yourselves finally giving up on finding Itai?
PD: We have not given up and we are not ready to give up as yet until there is some clarity as it were. I do believe that there is a God somewhere and l do believe the truth is going to be revealed and at the same time l do believe that Itai is still alive that’s what my conscience tells me – although that’s illogical considering the time that has lapsed thus far. I still hold on to hope.
ND: What would be your general word to Zimbabweans who have sympathised with you in this difficult time and maybe to those who are also holding to him?
PD: Well, l really want to appreciate firstly all those who have stood with us through this difficult time of our lives and all those who have come to assist in so many different ways and my heart really goes out to them. As a family, we do not take that for granted. On the other hand, there are those who have been on the negative and pessimistic side of things who have decided to become our enemies as a result of this other than cooperating and assisting. Well, it’s their choice.
And then those who may know or those who have Itai, we ask them to appeal to their consciences; that they find it within themselves to let go of a father, a brother, a breadwinner to some individuals. There should be no one who has power over someone else’s life.
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