African Reflections: Exiled Zimbabwean Journalist In the United Kingdom; The Murdered Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi And The Remainder Of Us All …

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Itai and Sheffra Dzamara’s children, Nokutenda and Nenyasha.


Mugabe may have gone, but the young Itai Dzamara, journalist cum human rights activist’s family is still picking up the pieces after his disappearance and are still demanding answers.


Three Billboards at a Zimbabwe bus terminal. They read: “Abducted at the barber. Still no arrests. How come ED [President Mnangagwa]?” Credit: Baynham Goredema.


|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|You see! Sometimes you begin by reminiscing those pleasant moments and occasions visiting friends and relatives in the villages. Often around Christmas festive season – when families and extended families gather for annual reunions. They would travel all the way from across Zimbabwe boundaries.

Myself. Not even a journalist then; barely through high school. Things were dandy. Happy days.


Itai Dzamara, 35, is Sheffra’s husband and Nokutenda and Nenyasha’s father. He was abducted three years ago today. He was getting a haircut on a Monday morning when four men bundled him into an unmarked vehicle and sped off. Itai’s whereabouts and the identities of those behind his kidnapping have remained unknown ever since.
“Every day I think that I’ll hear him coming through the gate,” continues Sheffra. “I think maybe I’ll see him on the news, or someone will send me a WhatsApp. These days my phone is always on, ready to receive news that Itai has been found. Maybe someone will phone, and he’ll be on the other end, or someone will give us information about where he is or tell us he’s on his way back. It’s hard to live like this, every day waiting to hear good news.”

AFRICAN ARGUMENTS

The season. Culminating into Christmas festivities; people celebrate and reflect the successes and failures of the year gone or going by, by  way of feasts and prayers.

Bulls, goats, chickens, pigs and sheep or all of them and sometimes at once are slaughtered. This is ‘MEAT-CURE‘ Season at its best and for a REASON. People joke about this and say you can only come across vegetables at your next door neighbor’s – around this time. 

People eat; drink, talk, sing and dance.

Little harmless verbal fights. Little harmless white  lies here and there. Catching up and harmless gossip are in order. There are also sideline activities; plots: engagements or and birthdays.

People constantly talk and hardly sleep; sometimes music blurring  uncontrollably and catatonic-ally on ‘fading and dying batteries’ throughout the night – and to be honest; this exhausts me a  lot though.

There are no open quarrels except if they are, they are communicated via hidden messages in songs and folktale, proverbs and metaphors. Communication is delicate, deliberate as it is loose due to alcohol consumed and weed smoked –  necessary tasks given the circumstances. This is one of the things so dear to me that I have missed for over – 20 -odd- years and counting. The thought of it alone sends my head into a spindle.

And often wonder allowed as to when I would one day visit the motherland Zimbabwe. I scratch my head often – only for my bare fingers to scratch over a bump, ‘dent on the middle of my head’ – a stuck reminder of how close I came close quarters with  death. This dent on my head:  left by a cocoa-cola bottle struck from one of Mr. Mugabe CIO agents. Challenging my lectures and my views on a current affairs programme I used to co-present on ZTV; Sundays.

On the Zimbabwe Television program. It was a Sunday evening current affairs program. I just happened to have been co opted onto presenting the program by the Head of Radio 4; Sam Munyavi. The editorial content comprised of simple question and answer sessions and general dialogue.

One fateful day though I drew the ire of the then minister of Environment and Tourism Francis Nhema. I queried the minister on the inflated fees for foreign tourists; that included ‘tourist price’ for things like transport, shopping and meals. I pointed out:

  1. I had lived in Kenya in the previous years; had seen how Kenya promoted tourism, including nominal fees and such
  2. Foreign tourists are arriving in droves simply because of President Chiluba’s land and business policy: “I don’t care whether a cat is black or white for as long as it catches the rats”
  3. And that South Africa had embarked on amicable and equitable redistribution of the land
  4. And that Nigeria had just offered Zimbabwean white commercial farmers land leases that span 90 – years if they chose to settle in Nigeria.

That query alone landed me the nickname: Mr. ‘Been-to’ although I would have rather Mr. Bantu.

It has taken me this long to face and accept the reality of my British-ness; and for Zimbabwe to remain a pipe- dream destination; probably as it should be.

In the beginning it used to get to my head and my dreams too.

I reminisce weekends of barbecues/braai KWA MEREKI – HARARE. Fake birthday parties from and among friends to attend to – excuses for PARTIES and having fun. That was grand.

But when mum went to be with the Lord on July, and realised still I couldn’t travel to Zimbabwe for the funeral – for the danger is still as real now as it was under Dictator Robert Mugabe. Imagine! 

My beloved aunt remarked recently: “By the time you visit Zimbabwe all the people would be gone. Dead!. That scared me. For it is the stuck reality.


The narrative

It doesn’t get any better. Thinking of my former graduate journalism student cum human rights activist Itai Dzamara who disappeared into ‘thin air’ from some hair salon downtown Harare; and in broad daylight.

He was abducted three years ago. He was getting a haircut one Monday morning in March 2016 when four men bundled him into an unmarked vehicle and sped off. Itai’s whereabouts and the identities of those behind his kidnapping have remained unknown ever since. 

Rumors has it that he was ‘murdered’, his body soaked in sulfuric acid and dumped in Lake Chivero/McIlwaine – 5 miles west of capital Harare. 

“Every day I think that I’ll hear him coming through the gate,” says Sheffra, his wife.

“I think maybe I’ll see him on the news, or someone will send me a WhatsApp. These days my phone is always on, ready to receive news that Itai has been found. Maybe someone will phone, and he’ll be on the other end, or someone will give us information about where he is or tell us he’s on his way back.

It’s hard to live like this, every day waiting to hear good news.”


And then there is the fateful Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

A Saudi Arabian journalist, dissident, author, and a former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel and Columnist for Washington Post who was assassinated at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 by agents of the Saudi.  


The CIA has a recording of a phonecall in which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave instructions to “silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible”, a Turkish news website has reported.
Gina Haspel, CIA director, is said to have revealed the existence of a wiretapped call between Prince Mohammed and his brother Khaled bin Salman, who is Saudi’s ambassador to the US, to Turkish officials during a visit to Ankara last month, according to Hurriyet.
“It is said that the crown prince gave an instruction to silence JamalKhashoggi as soon as possible and this instruction was captured during the CIA wiretapping,” Hurriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote on Thursday. “The subsequent murder is the ultimate confirmation of this instruction.”

The Telegraph

It sends shivers through my spine. My head goes into an ‘intoxicated’ like dangerous spin. Imagine a journalist; one so prominent at that; can be murdered in a Turkish consulate and nobody knows how it happened; and no knowledge of the whereabouts of his body so family can lay him to rest with respect.


And for President Trump to say ;

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!”


And for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to say:


“It’s a mean, nasty world out there — the Middle East in particular,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “There are important American interests to keep the American people safe, to protect Americans — not only Americans who are here, but Americans who are traveling and working, doing business in the Middle East. It is the president’s obligation, indeed the State Department’s duty as well, to ensure that we adopt policies that further America’s national security.”

All in front of a ‘dead body.’

Shame! It is a shame.

Shall we ever live in fear for as long as we remain trained and practising journalists?

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