US urges Mnangagwa to search for missing opposition officials

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and US President Donald Trump

The United States has urged the Zimbabweans government to search for three missing opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials, who include a legislator that were allegedly abducted by state security agents yesterday in Harare following a protest over lack of government commitment on helping needy families under the current nationwide lockdown to avert a coronavirus crisis.

In a tweet, the United States Embassy, Harare, said, “… We are concerned and urge police to locate them. We hope they are safe and sound.”

The Zimbabwean government has not yet responded to the tweet amid concerns that the three may be detained by some state security agents, who in the past allegedly abducted Dr. Peter Magombeyi and journalist Itai Dzamara over a crippling doctors’ strike and calls for former president Robert Mugabe to resign, respectively.

Police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told a local weekly newspaper that some people were arrested in Harare yesterday following a public protest over food shortages but would not shed light on the whereabouts of Harare West lawmaker Joanna Mamombe, MDC Youth Assembly deputy chairperson Cecilia Chimbiri and the party’s deputy organising secretary Netsai Marova.

In a tweet, police insisted today that Mamombe, Chimbiri and Marova are not in police custody,

“The ZRP wishes to make it clear that the MDC Alliance members who include Johanna Mamombe, Obey Sithole, Ostallous Siziba, Stanley Manyenga and Justin Chidziva who were involved in an illegal flash demonstration on 13/5/20 in Warren Park, Harare, are not in police custody. Their lawyer has been in contact with Officer Commanding Police, Harare Province and was told to bring his clients for an interview with regards to the above cited matter. This is the official position. Police, therefore dismisses all social media insinuations that the MDC members were either detained or are in police custody.”

Some civil society organizations have demanded immediate government action on finding the three MDC officials.

Zimbabwe Peace Project led Jestina Mukoko, who was abducted by state security agents a couple of years ago, raised fears over the alleged abduction of the MDC activists.

In a statement, ZPP said, “With government silent on the matter, the incident raises profound concerns that this could be just another suspected state-sanctioned enforced disappearance of dissenting voices, given the country’s record of unsolved cases of missing activists.

“In addition, the incident can only serve to further polarise an already agitated society and may result in deepened conflict as the country grapples with multiple problems, among them, political volatility, economic meltdown, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In essence of this, ZPP calls on government to immediately establish and publicise where the three missing activists are, and if they are to be charged for any criminal offence, this should be done within the set out procedures, and not in a clandestine and unconstitutional manner.”

A non-profit organization, Zimbabwe Coalition, also urged the government to take immediate measures in searching for the three MDC activists.

“Zimbabwe has a disturbing record of enforced disappearances of opposition and civic society activists that include Jestina Mukoko, Patrick Nabanyama, Shepherd Mashizha, Patrick Chizuze and Itai Dzamara. Zimbabwe’s Constitution guarantees the rights of arrested persons and directs that all persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection, representation and benefit of the law. It is therefore an obligation of the State to abide by Section 56 (3) of the country’s Constitution which stipulates that every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their political affiliation or opinion.”

The organization further said citizens should respect the lockdown measures introduced by the government.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa was unreachable for comment as she was not responding to calls on here mobile phone.

At least 37 Zimbabweans have so far tested positive for coronavirus and four of them have died. Thirteen people have recovered. – VOA