Families and friends of victims of enforced disappearances in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces are demanding that the government launch investigations and provide answers about what happened to their loved ones.
The demands were made at an event hosted by local pressure group Ibhetshu Lika Zulu to commemorate the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
The event was attended by various stakeholders, including human rights defenders, political parties, and families of the missing people.
One of the speakers, Sidumo Bhebhe, whose brother Norman disappeared shortly after independence, said his brother was a soldier who was serving the last month of his resignation when he was abducted.
“My brother came back home after the war,” Bhebhe said. “The elders encouraged him to resign from the army and settle down, start a family. He tendered in his resignation and served the final month. Two weeks into the final month, some soldiers, especially those who were in the ZPRA command, started being abducted. He tried to flee with his friends, but they were caught.”
Bhebhe said his brother’s friend saw him being pushed in a trolley, unable to walk or hold anything. That was the last time anyone saw him.
Another speaker, Nicholas Ndlovu, said his friend Paul Chizuze disappeared without a trace.
“We went through a hard time trying to trace our friend,” Ndlovu said. “Six months later we were told that his car had been found in Beitbridge but his whereabouts remained unknown.”
Felix Ndebele said his brother was part of the Silobela 12, who were abducted and never returned.
“I had just been released myself,” Ndebele said. “I was arrested for helping soldiers with their supplies. I was put into solitary confinement for 41 days. The day after I had returned home, some men came to our home. They killed my father in front of us. He wasn’t even into politics, he was a farmer.”
Ndebele said the 12 people who were abducted were all civilians and had nothing to do with politics.
Political analyst Effie Ncube said enforced disappearances spread fear, disrupt communities, and tear families apart.
“As families you keep hope alive that your loved ones will come back,” Ncube said. “You even hesitate to do the necessary processes, thinking that maybe they will come back home. The worst part is that most of these disappearances are enforced by the State. How then does the State address the same issue?”
Ncube said the government must launch investigations and provide answers to the families of the disappeared.
Members of political parties who were present gave messages of solidarity, pledging to engage relevant authorities to ensure that the issue is resolved.
The International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances is observed on August 30 each year. It is a day to raise awareness of the issue of enforced disappearances and to call for the release of all victims.