HARARE – In a tense stand-off spawned by the much-condemned abduction of pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara on Monday, as well as the ensuing sympathy demonstration by angry youths in central Harare on Wednesday, heavily-armed anti-riot police continue to cordon off opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC headquarters in the capital.

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The savage siege, which MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu described yesterday as “a throwback to the terrible years of naked repression”, has heightened fears that a major crackdown against political opponents of President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF is in the offing.

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Gutu spoke to the Daily News after dozens of the party’s workers at Harvest House — including Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka — were viciously assaulted on Wednesday night by police who stormed the building soon after the Dzamara sympathy demonstration.

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The police were bizarrely demanding that a helmet and baton stick which were allegedly stolen by the demonstrators be returned back by the party, notwithstanding which there would be “blood on the shop floor” — even as MDC officials professed their ignorance about the stolen items.

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Gutu said the siege of the party’s headquarters was “a clear sign that President Robert Mugabe and his government are in panic mode”, as three truckloads of anti-riot policemen had descended on Harvest House “armed to the teeth”.

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“They (Police) demanded to enter Harvest House in order to retrieve the helmet and baton stick that they alleged had been stolen by MDC youths who had staged a peaceful demonstration earlier on Wednesday, calling for the release of the abducted journalist-cum-human rights activist, Itai Dzamara,” Gutu said.

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Surprisingly, and notwithstanding “the helmet and baton stick excuse”, the siege of the MDC’s headquarters was continuing, amid clear indications that this was about “intimidating and harassing” the MDC and its employees.

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“The (anti) riot police are still camped outside Harvest House and they have cordoned off the road adjacent to our party head office and in the process, prevented our staffers from gaining access into the building.

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“The MDC is under siege from the Zanu PF regime whose days are now clearly numbered,” Gutu added.

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Contacted for comment yesterday, police spokesperson Charity Charamba said she had not been briefed about the siege.

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But MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, who was lurking close to the party headquarters when the Daily News visited Harvest House yesterday, accused police of employing “unlawful and unnecessarily heavy-handed methods” against the opposition.

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“The youths were demonstrating demanding the disclosure of the whereabouts of  Dzamara and now the police are at our offices as if it is wrong to demonstrate. As a party, we support the demonstration because the government and police must tell us where Dzamara is,” Mwonzora said.

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He added that the country was “quickly relapsing to the dark days of intimidation and repression.”

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“This is the modus operandi of Zanu PF. This is the same way abductions were carried by the State in the past.

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“Had it been somebody else the government would have been on its feet searching for him, but because it is a pro-democracy activist they are not concerned and it has the footprints of the Zanu PF government,” Mwonzora said.

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Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Parliament on Wednesday that he was also concerned about the abduction and whereabouts of Dzamara.

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Asked in Parliament on Wednesday the measures that the government was taking to find Dzamara, Mnangagwa said, “I am very grateful for that question as it is of national interest.

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“We are a democratic society and we believe every citizen of this country has the right to do what they want to do peacefully. I can assure the House that it (the abduction) is a barbaric act and we want those responsible to come to book”.

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But Mwonzora accused Mnangagwa of “speaking with a decidedly forked tongue”.

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“He (Mnangagwa) is a hypocritical man, he is lying.  He knows where Dzamara is, or should know where they are keeping him,” he said.

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And as the anger among Zimbabweans regarding Dzamara’s abduction continues to mount, his distraught wife, Sheffa, made an emotional plea to his abductors on Wednesday to release him, saying the couple’s minor children were in distress and crying for their father to come back home.

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The 36-year-old journalist, was abducted from a barber shop in Harare’s high density suburb of Glen View on Monday morning by some unidentified men, suspected to be State security agents, who were travelling in a white twin cab vehicle with a blurred registration number plate.

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Upon abducting Dzamara, the captors reportedly and bizarrely accused him of having stolen a beast before bundling him into their vehicle.

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Since his disappearance four days ago, his mobile phone has been switched off and he has not had any contact with his wife Sheffa, family members and friends, and is being held incommunicado even from his lawyers — which is against the tenets of the law.

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The emotional Sheffa, who was in the company of her brother-in-law Patson, told the Daily News that she was appealing to the country’s leaders and to the conscience of her husbands’ abductors to “search their humanity” and release him unharmed.

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“Please release my husband alive because his children are still young and they still need their father,” the grief-stricken Sheffa pleaded, choking with emotion.

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The 32-year-old mother of two said life had been unbearable for the family since her husband’s abduction — particularly since Dzamara was the family’s sole bread winner.

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She said she believed that her husband’s abduction was planned because a few days earlier she had spotted two vehicles, an Isuzu and Nissan twin cab, circling her home.

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Expounding on her suspicion that the government was behind the abduction, she said, “Authorities once told him one day gava richadambura musungo (we will get you one day)”.

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On his part, Tsvangirai savaged Mugabe and the government on Tuesday, accusing them of being behind the brazen, broad-daylight abduction of Dzamara.

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Describing the abduction as “morbid” and “callous”, he added that Zimbabweans now “feared for the worst” for Dzamara — who is best known for bravely leading the Occupy Africa Unity Square initiative from the front, which has seen the activist being incarcerated and viciously assaulted by police on several occasions. – Daily News