Speakers from various Christian denominations, political parties, civic societies and the Dzamara family were expected to join thousands of Zvishavane residents for the key event. Those who had already travelled to the asbestos mining town for the aborted event included MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Prophetic Healing Ministry leader Walter Magaya, ex-war veteransâ€™ leader Jabulani Sibanda among other civic societies mainly from Harare, Gweru and Bulawayo.
However, gun-toting soldiers and baton-wielding riot police armed with tear gas canisters sealed all roads leading to the venue from the early hours of the day and intimidated all those who were making their way to the stadium from nearby suburbs. The state security agents also forced the Zvishavane town council to close all the gates of the stadium.
When this reporter arrived at the venue, riot police clad in dark combat gear were manning the entrances. Others were milling around the nearby suburbs like Makwasha and Mandava. Military and police vehicles fixed with crowd-dispersing equipment like tear gas and water canisters were also patrolling in the area.
The Dzamara family and other speakers, including Tsvangirai and his national executive committee, went to seek refuge at the residence of Senator Lilian Timveous after all efforts to convince the state security agents to bow down had hit the brick-wall.
People interviewed said the police had threatened them with heavy beating if they kept insisting on attending the event.
â€œThe police officers whom I met on my way to the stadium stopped and asked me whether I was going to a football match. I then said No there is no match today but I am going to the prayer meeting organised to pray for safe return of Itai Dzamara. They then said if I cared for my life and that of my family I should just go back home. My body started trembling because they were heavily armed. I do not even know how I back-tracked to my house because I was so terrified,â€ said one eye-witness.
ItaiDzamaraâ€™s brother, Partson, told The Zimbabwean
that the event had been cleared by the police earlier and the Zvishavane town council had also authorised the use of Mandava stadium.
â€œWe have all been shocked by what happened, we wanted to hold a peaceful prayer for our abducted brother who has gone missing for 165 days. It was not in any way a political gathering. We do not know why the state security crashed such an event. We are all heart-broken,â€ he said.
Munyaradzi Mutandavari, the MDC-Tâ€™s Midlands spokesperson, said the riot police had been deployed from the nearby Buchwa training centre and all the disturbances had been done to embarrass party leader Tsvangirai.
â€œThe police infringed on the peopleâ€™s right of association and all this done just to embarrass Tsvangirai because Zanu (PF) thinks he is getting mileage from these events given the multitudes who have attended before. They also wanted to shut out Jabulani Sibanda whose speeches encouraging people to rise against Zanu (PF) have upset them. It is also disgusting because the cause of the meeting was noble – people just meeting to pray for the safe return of Dzamara. It shows there just is no rule of law in Zimbabwe,â€ he said.
Dzamara was famed for his Occupy Africa Unity Square campaign in which he called upon President Robert Mugabe to step down due to his role of presiding over the collapse of the economy. He disappeared on March 8 2015.
Post published in: Featured