Zimbabwean human rights groups were searching for a prominent rights activist Tuesday who went missing three weeks ago, amid fears he may have been murdered.
Paul Chizuze, a paralegal who worked with civic organizations including the Amani Trust, is said to have left his Bulawayo house on February 8 driving a white Nissan truck and has not been seen by his associates since then.
Ten organizations led by the Christian group Churches in Bulawayo and the Solidarity Peace Trust issued an appeal on Tuesday saying they feared Chizuze may have been “murdered, hijacked or abducted.”
Chizuze worked closely with Education Minister David Coltart, who wrote on the social microblogging site Twitter: “I am very distressed about the disappearance of a good friend and colleague.”
Fellow activists said Chizuze was one of the many volunteers who led efforts to search for Coltart's election agent, Patrick Nabanyama who disappeared at the height of political violence in 2000, and has never been found. He has since been declared dead.
Chief Executive Officer Dumisani Nkomo of Habakkuk Trust said the disappearance has sent shock waves through the human rights community.
"He has been documenting human rights violations over the years, and obviously he would have probably inconvenienced one or two people who may not have been happy with the kind of work he was doing," Nkomo said. "So yes, somebody may have caused him harm."
Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said the country has made very little progress over the past three years in increasing the respect for human rights which it says is essential for the nation to hold new elections.
A ZESN report entitled “Analysis of the Human Rights Situation in Zimbabwe and Implications for Free and Fair Elections," based on observations by 210 observers, said power sharing since 2009 “has not resulted in a change in… respect for human rights.”
ZESN Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that substantial political reform still needed to be carried out as the country heads uncertainly toward a constitutional referendum, probably this year, followed by a general election.