Missing Zimbabwean Activist Chizuze Feared Murdered
Concern is building in Zimbabwe over the fate of a human rights activist who has been missing for roughly a month, with many fearing the worst. Paul Chizuze has been missing since the 8th of February and since his disappearance and in the name of open protest, freedom of expression and civility, his friends and colleagues have launched a campaign on social media networking sites Facebook and Twitter, to try and find out where he is.
Pressure group Sokwanele posted an alert on its website saying Chizuze “Allegedly left his home around 8 pm on 8th February, and what happened after this remains a mystery. He may have been murdered, hijacked or abducted by parties unknown.” It is noted that his car, a white twin cab Nissan Hardbody (registration ACJ 3446) is also missing.
Ten organizations led by the Christian group Churches in Bulawayo and the Solidarity Peace Trust also recently issued an appeal saying they feared Chizuze may have been ‘murdered’.
Paul Chizuze is a paralegal who worked with civic organizations including the Amani Trust. 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 has been quoted as stating that 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.
In light of the recent death of former military chief Gen. Solomon Mujuru (husband of the vice-president) at a farm outside Harare, Chizuze’s 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,” Chief Executive Officer Dumisani Nkomo of Habakkuk Trust 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 added that substantial political reform is still needed to be carried out as the country heads uncertainly toward a constitutional referendum (likely this year) followed by a general election.