Opinion & Columnist Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Abductions: Fighting Dissenting Voices in The Worst Way Possible

by Gift Kugara

Gift Kugara

Gift Kugara

The recent alleged abduction of Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association President Dr Peter Magombeyi raises yet another grave dilemma faced by citizens when they stand up to their failing government. I have observed that what is happening in Zimbabwe is shaping up as high-end debacle. What I found interesting is that there is no shortage of culprits: previous and present ZANU PF governments, MDC-A, Third Force , the West and even individuals abducting themselves .As in many cases before, everyone is quick to point a finger at someone else and prescribing their favourite opinions. Under the current climate, it is difficult to blame MDC-A, Third Force or the victims.

To have a good understanding of why we are in this present scenario, it is important to trace back at some of the well-publicised abduction cases that took place before and after independence.

In 1975, a member of the ZANU Central Committee, politician and lawyer, Edson Sithole was abducted at a local hotel in Salisbury and has never been seen or heard of. His mysterious disappearance has been linked to his political activities. The blame for his kidnapping and possible elimination was put on Ian Smith’s Rhodesia .This was the first blunder to blame Ian Smith in a pool with so many swimmers.

In 1979, a British born white Catholic priest John Bradburne was abducted from his small hut in Mutemwa, north-east Zimbabwe, tortured and shot in the back. He was accused of being an informer. Again another debatable death Father Fidelis Mukonori told the BBC that he believed the killers were Rhodesian Special Forces, pretending to be guerrillas fighting the white-minority government. The war was coming to an end and the Rhodesian forces were no longer operating in that area. They may have left but with no adequate safeguarding against divided and furious black guerrilla fighters. For this one should blame Ian Smith for he should have made the provision to look after the safety of all citizens during the ceasefire arrangements. This blunder number two empowered the guerrilla fighters and their leadership to distance themselves from the horrific act, despite indications that they may have killed the priest.



In 2008, Tonderayi Ndira, a popular Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) youth leader and activist, was murdered in cold blood after he was abducted in Mabvuku by people driving a white Toyota single cab with a fake registration number.


Later in the same year journalist and human rights activist, Jestina Mukoko was abducted by Zimbabwean security forces from her home in Harare in the early hours of the morning by suspected state agents for allegedly being involved in plans for anti-government demonstrations. She was to be released after months for campaigns and court actions.

The list goes on and on to include, Cain Nkala, Comedian Samantha Kureya and more recently Dr Magombeyi.

What is significant is that all these blunders were made before this present government assumed power. It is evident that Zanu PF made and inherited all these mistakes from the very beginning. Someone within the system should have noticed a disaster in progress that has become obvious even to the ruling Zanu PF after the abduction and murder of Cain Nkala. Even if that didn’t discourage them, the murder of a reported 20000 civilians during Gukhurahundi should have given someone a clue that something is wrong. Even the late Robert Mugabe should have understood that there is a problem.

Zanu PF and the government have always desired to eliminate their political opponents in the worst way possible: abductions and murder. These abductions show how they have proceeded to demonstrate the worst way to fight any opposing voice and in the process making more mistakes.

It is also important to note that in all these arguments, political orientation shapes opinions. And as such one can hold to different narratives. One can believe that there is nothing the Zanu PF government stands to gain by abducting political opponents at a time when it’s trying so hard to rebuild its soiled reputation. Or, one can believe that the opposition can pull out all its bags of tricks to expose the government and push its agenda through stage-managed abductions. Make your choice. The result is unchanged.

As international attention and pressure grew, the Zimbabwe government continued and continues to act as if it has all the time in the world. Disastrous mistakes were brushed off with no apology at all, no explanation but accuse the opposition of carrying out abductions. Only when they are put in a corner, they suddenly woke up and promise an investigation.

Above all, the Mnangagwa led government and the Zanu PF don’t seem to understand the implications of their public statements. First, Mnangagwa is on numerous occasions on record talking about eliminating Lawyers and Doctors who assist opposition supporters. He does not understand that any confrontation that does not completely destroy the opposition makes it even much stronger and this is effectively the natural set up. Second Mnangagwa does not understand what is at stake. He is clueless and does not know what to do in this situation. He might opt to embrace different tactics that might produce positive results, or it might brew much bigger trouble. At least one can get to know what is clearly wrong, however. It is wrong to assume everything is right and to keep saying everything is right when everyone knows it is not. It is wrong to keep doing the same thing when the same thing isn’t working. Remaining with the same tactic seems almost certain to give opposing voices a great victory.


Gift Kugara writes from the United Kingdom. He is passionate about penal reform, politics, Big data analytics and actuarial modelling. Follow him on Twitter at @GKMwa