CIVIL society groups, friends and family of missing pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara last Thursday took time to mark exactly two years since his abduction by suspected state agents close to his Harare home.
There has been no trace of the firebrand activist since the shock March 9, 2015 incident which has brought global attention back onto Zimbabwe’s poor rights record.
For anti-President Robert Mugabe campaigns that centred around him, Dzamara was bashed and arrested but that could only fuel his resolve to continue demanding that “failed Mugabe” to step down.
Under the banner of his Occupy Africa Unity Square campaign which comprised a handful youthful firebrands, and, in his smallness, the journalist turned anti-Mugabe activist had caused enough discomfort to President Robert Mugabe’s continued stranglehold on power.
What followed was an incident that has further spotlighted the Zanu PF regime’s history of abductions, rape, killings and torture, among a list of brutalities on critics.
Despite repeated insistence by the State that it knew nothing about his whereabouts, the Harare administration has failed to convince those familiar with Zimbabwe’s murky history of cruelty against opposition activists.
But events that have followed Dzamara’s two-year disappearance have exposed the myopia that has become of Zanu PF regime’s high handed strategies to deal with growing dissent among citizens.
For the first time since the 1998 food riots, citizens outside political parties, workers and the civil society banner have risen to demand greater accountability from the regime.
Citizen movements such as #ThisFlag, #Tajamuka have risen to occupy the same space Dzamara was yanked away from, leaving government at sixes and sevens.
“Abducting Itai Dzamara has clearly failed to deter dissenting voices speaking against President Mugabe and his Zanu PF regime,” says Harare based political analyst Jacob Mafume, adding, “From the look of things, it has emboldened opposition voice and the anti-government activists.”
Between July and September last year, the State was forced to deploy heavily in Harare, Beitbridge and other parts of the country as angry citizens staged protests over continued suffering under Zanu PF.
More defiant activists have emerged in the past year to stage anti-government resistance braving state repression.
With such overwhelming resistance, critics feel eliminating Dzamara was, from hindsight, a strategy that has failed.
“All this is happening in the post Itai Dzamara era,” Rukweza says.
“What is clear is that anti-government activists are not intimidated by these killings or abductions.”
Grace Ablaze Ministries International's Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, a strong campaigner for Dzamara's release, also said the decision to abduct Dzamara may not have yielded results as envisaged by his captors.
“It did not work...they didn’t think that it was going to happen this way and what is going to happen is that they will realise that this is not going to be easy. I don’t see them attempting to do that again.
“I am sure it has woken them up,” Magaya said.
The outspoken preacher said the Zanu PF led government should instead brace for more protests by ordinary Zimbabweans.
But Rukweza said Dzamara’s abduction was still not enough to convince Zanu PF this was not a good strategy for future cases.
“What is also clear is that abducting and killing opponents is part of the Zanu PF DNA; it has been part of Zanu PF’s way of life since formation.
“It will not stop because to Zanu PF these abductions and killings yield short term benefits of eliminating immediate political obstacles and instil fear in the general public.
“It must be understood that the main objective of these abductions is to intimidate and instil fear in the general masses so that they cannot publicly criticise or vote against Zanu PF during elections.
“So, to perpetuate this culture of fear and to cow the ordinary citizens, Zanu PF will always resort to crude political tactics which include violence, abductions and killings.
“In the minds of the Zanu PF strategists, a frightened and cowed citizenry will not criticise or vote against Zanu PF for fear of victimisation.”