CSOs hold indaba on enforced disappearances

BY SILAS NKALA

CIVIC society organisations (CSOs) are today conducting a national indaba on policy options and paths to ending enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe as well as seeking justice for victims and survivors, Habakkuk Trust has said.

Several political and human rights activists, including MDC’s Patrick Nabanyama, human rights campaigner Paul Chizuze and journalist-cum-rights activist Itai Dzamara, have vanished without trace.

Habakkuk Trust, the convener, in a statement said the enforced disappearances indaba was a policy-focused meeting meant to bring together about 60 civic organisations, commissions and academic leaders.

“The indaba shall be anchored on the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Zimbabwean Missing Persons Act and international best practices. It shall also be guided by the Missing Persons Compendium, which Habakkuk Trust produced,” the trust said
in a statement.

Habakkuk Trust said the enforced disappearances topic was rarely discussed at public forums.

“Background of the indaba is that Zimbabwe has undergone a series of successive conflicts right from independence to date. These conflicts have left a trail of destruction, ranging from Gukurahundi genocide, rape, torture (to) enforced disappearances. However, the issue of enforced disappearances is hardly discussed in public forums, yet countless families are living in untold anguish, wondering whether their loved ones are still alive or dead,” the statement read.

Habakkuk Trust said the Fifth Brigade was responsible for the disappearance of hundreds of people in Matabeleland and Midlands through abductions shortly after independence.

“Over the years, human remains (have been) discovered in areas such as Kezi and parts of Tsholotsho, where innocent civilians were buried in mass graves.”

The trust indicated that more people disappeared during the fast-track land reform programme and after the formation of the opposition MDC.

“Zimbabwe has, among its statutes, the Missing Persons Act Chapter 5:14, which stipulates, among other issues, procedures and conditions for the declaration of death of missing persons and the claiming of estate by dependents and relatives of the missing person,” the trust said.

“Habakkuk Trust has produced a compendium on the issue detailing heart-breaking accounts of various disappearances of Zimbabwean citizens. The indaba on enforced disappearances is a platform to discuss the issue, interrogate the Missing Persons Act and recommendations that can bring justice and closure to affected families and eradicate the scourge of enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe.”

Commissioners from the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, human rights defender Jestina Mukoko, key CSO leaders from Harare and Bulawayo, the clergy and affected families are expected to attend the indaba.