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Lone anti-Mugabe protester defiant
25/11/2014 00:00:00
by Chief Correspondent
 
Beaten but not cowed ... Itai Dzamara
 
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SINCE October this year, Harare-based journalist Itai Dzamara has become a regular feature in newspaper pages for defiantly staging so-called Occupy Africa Unity Square sit-ins in central Harare protesting President Robert Mugabe’s continued stay in power.

In some instances, he has been beaten up and left for dead by anti-riot police but this has not been enough to break his spirit. Below are excerpts of an interview with one of NewZimbabwe.com’s (NZ) correspondents.

NZ: Who is Itai Dzamara?

ID: Itai Dzamara is a 35-year-old simple Zimbabwean journalist by profession. He believes the time has come to stop the national crisis.

NZ: What is your background in journalism?

ID: I started practising journalism in 2000. Since then, I have worked for the Football Weekly, the Standard newspaper, the Zimbabwe Independent, The Zimbabwean and l also formed my own magazine called the The New Leader.

NZ: Why are you demanding Mugabe’s resignation?

ID: First, l am convinced that this is not the Zimbabwe that we want; this is not the Zimbabwe that my kids should live in, this is not the Zimbabwe that my father sent me to the university to live in.

NZ: Are you an attention seeker?

ID: Not at all, if l wanted attention l think there are cheaper, safer and less dangerous means of doing it in our society today. I could have started a church, call myself a prophet and l think l have enough intelligence to trick one or two people here and there and claim to have seen things through prophesy.

I could still have sung songs like Tocky (Vibes) and grabbed some attention. I don’t see any attention seeking when l am putting my life in danger. On 6 November l almost died after being brutally assaulted by more than 20 police officers or thugs in police uniform and they left me for dead.

If at all there is any attention that comes through my efforts, l think probably it’s unavoidable because obviously when someone does something, people become attentive.

NZ: What exactly do you want to achieve through your campaign and do you honestly believe you can force the removal of President Mugabe.



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ID: I never at any point had an illusion that l could push Mount Kilimanjaro and throw it into the sea, in this case removing Mugabe. I am only making a concerted effort about the national crisis, about the fact that we have hit a dead end as a nation under the leadership of Cde Robert Mugabe and his government. I am making a concerted effort to mobilise Zimbabweans to stand up against that. I will not even remove Robert Mugabe alone. I will not even apply enough pressure on my own. That is why my idea, right from the beginning, had to be sold to the people.

NZ: How many people are buying into your ideas?

ID: Since October 17 when l handed in the petition, there has been a massive response. Right now l am having more than 50 people forming what we call our core group of action. That’s progress; initially I was one.

NZ: Morgan Tsvangirai and other groups seem to have failed to do what you intend to achieve. What gives you the impression that you can succeed however modest your targets?

ID: To start with l don’t think Tsvangirai has failed, but if we were to go by that thinking, l would still not think that is the end of the road probably someone could have failed but someone can still do it today and come out with some results.

I have no doubt at all that if enough numbers are mobilised, we can change the situation. Since we started our sit-ins and other forms of protests, I have actually seen that with very little capacity, we have managed to grab the attention of the regime.

NZ: What, in essence, have you been doing in terms of protests?

ID: After submitting the petition on 17 October 2014, we then embarked on sit-ins at the Africa Unity Square with many Zimbabweans, at some point the square would have up to 300 people all occupying it and we have even notified Mr Mugabe that we are waiting for his response to our demands whilst staging a sit-in at the Africa Unity Square.

Recently we have launched other forms of protest which include our lunch hour whistling and hooting protests which is quite impressive and gathering a lot of momentum within Harare. Many people would cheer at us and hoot with us. For your own information, we are also launching in Bulawayo, but I will not give you the details now.

NZ: Tell me about the beating that you have received from the police.

ID: On 6 Nov l almost died. When we got to the hospital doctors had to do a scan 6 times because my whole body was swollen.

Police found us at Africa Unity Square and ordered us to leave. When l queried that the next thing is the head of the team was ordering his team to start beating us. I became the worst victim because l did not run away when my colleagues stood and left.

They beat me for more than 15 minutes, two button sticks broke on my body. I lost consciousness l think for about 45 minutes, l only regained consciousness when l had reached the hospital.

NZ: How much beating will you take for you to abandon your idea?

ID: No amount of beating is going to stop me at all. In fact, l didn’t know so early that l would endure such kind of brutal assault and it hardened me. It actually showed me that there is some power behind what l am doing.

NZ: Is someone paying you for all this?

ID: Not at all. In fact, contrary to many people’s attitudes and beliefs in Zimbabwe, we don’t have any single donor; we don’t have any organisation or powerful hand sending money. But l must be honest to say there are few individuals here and there who have come to us saying ‘we admire and we are encouraged with what we are doing, can we support you’ and this is a case where someone sends $5 to buy drinks and so forth.

As Zimbabweans we must move away from this attitude of thinking that we should wait for someone from somewhere to come with a bag full of money to start redefining our agenda. Zimbabwe is not moving in many ways because people have that syndrome of thinking that some messiah must come from somewhere and must give you a lot of money for you to do something.

NZ: Does your wife approve of what you are doing, and the dangers involved?

ID: My wife is one of my top supporters. Initially, and it’s very normal, she had a lot of fears and reservations but she has leant that when this man goes out to do something, he means it. Over time she has been strengthened also she is one of my major supporters.

NZ: Are you MDC?

ID: Not at all but l regard MDC as a partner in the struggle for a new Zimbabwe which l am now fully involved in.

NZ: Are you still a practising journalist?

ID: No. I am no longer a practising journalist. The journalist is still in me but l am not practising anymore. There is no way l could combine the activism that l am now full time in and journalism. The writer never goes away though.

NZ: Thanks you for your time.

ID: My Pleasure.


 
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