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Abduction Victims Speak Out as Zimbabwe Lawyers Launch Book on Disappearances

Jestina Mukoko (center) with Concelia Chinanzvavana and her husband, Emmanuel.

Jestina Mukoko (center) with Concelia Chinanzvavana and her husband, Emmanuel.

As victims of enforced disappearances and human rights defenders marked a year since the alleged abduction of human rights activist Itai Dzamara, some victims blamed the state for the abductions and said without holding past abductors accountable for their actions, disappearances of innocent Zimbabweans will continue.

Speaking to Studio 7 at the launch of a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights publication titled "Enforced disappearances. An information Guide for Human Rights Defenders and CSOs”, Concelia Chinanzvavana, who was abducted during the 2008 elections in Mashonaland West province after contesting as an MDC candidate, said failure by government to punish those who abduct innocent Zimbabweans shows that the state is complicit in the abductions and the heinous act will continue.

“This issue of enforced disappearances has been an ongoing problem in Zimbabwe because we do not follow the rule of law and constitutionalism. If it was that then people would be afraid to carry it on because they would know one day I would be prosecuted in my own right or one day I would have to answer for this but now because they are protected maybe because they support the ruling party they do not care.

“We are hopeful that with the coming of the NPRC (National Peace and Reconciliation Commission) we will have somewhere to go and interrogate this and then it can be looked into on a permanent basis.”

Jestina Mukoko, another victim, who says she never thought she would live to tell the story after being held incommunicado for three weeks concurred.

She said, “The new constitution and the constitution then (2008) it was the role of the state to protect its citizens. Where is the state now when we have a long list of people who have disappeared? I do not see the state's commitment in ensuring these people are brought to safety and as a result I don't think I can be blamed if I see them being complicit in all this.

“Even from my case the police professed ignorance on my whereabouts. A whole government minister revealed that the identity of those the police had said should be arrested for kidnapping me could not be revealed as they were acting on behalf of the state.”

Mukoko was bundled into a vehicle at her home in Norton by state security agents. She was allegedly tortured while in detention.

Some MDC-T activists like Tonderai Ndira and Beta Chokururama were allegedly abducted and killed in 2008 by suspected state agents and up to now no-one has been arrested in connection with the abductions and subsequent killings.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights senior programs manager, Dzimbabwe Chimbga, told Studio 7 that from the cases of abductions that they have handled, the state which is supposed to protect citizens is suspected to be committing against its own people.

“From the pattern that is there, the cases we have worked on including that of Jestina Mukoko, Concelia and Emmanuel Chinanzvavana and many other cases it is quite clear from judgments that have come out that it is the hand of the state.”

Chimbga said the publication seeks to minimize the risk of enforced disappearances and that even the state would use it to protect its own citizenry.

“This is a publication on enforced disappearances motivated by the history of enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe. We have had a long list of people who have disappeared either because of political inclinations or because they are working as human rights defenders and the book articulates international, regional and domestic guidelines on human rights protection against enforced disappearances.

“It also speaks to what should be done where cases of enforced disappearances have been done. We hope the publication will be used by everyone in acquainting themselves on these crimes committed which are crimes against humanity.”

Dzamara is among some local people who are still missing. Others are civic society workers, Paul Chizuze, and Patrick Nabanyama, who was an election agent of former Education Minister David Coltart.

Senior officials in the Ministry of Information were not reachable for comment.