SIX police officers and an activist were injured Wednesday when demonstrators clashed with police after marching to parliament demanding the release of an anti-government campaigner, police said.
The clashes came as the United States and European Union have asked the government to investigate the disappearance of journalist-turned activist Itai Dzamara who has been staging sit-ins in the capital demanding that President Robert Mugabe resigns.
His family says Dzamara was forcibly taken by five unidentified men and bundled into an unmarked truck near his Harare home on Monday.
The opposition blames state security agents.
About 500 people participated in the rally, which ended with demonstrators throwing stones and police wielding batons, witnesses said.
The EU and U.S. said in separate statements that they were concerned with Dzamara’s abduction and disappearance.
“The U.S. Embassy notes with grave concern the reports of the forced disappearance of civil society activist Itai Dzamara on March 9, 2015. We support Mr. Dzamara’s right to freedom of expression and to demonstrate peacefully.
“We urge the relevant authorities to demonstrate their professionalism by fully investigating the circumstances surrounding Mr. Dzamara’s abduction.
“If he is being held in state custody, it is vital that his fundamental human rights and freedoms as guaranteed by Zimbabwe’s constitution be honoured.”
The EU said the government should “take all necessary measures to ascertain Dzamara’s whereabouts, safeguard his wellbeing and accord him the full protection of the law.”
Police said they were investigating the alleged abduction.
“Mr Itai Dzamara’s wife reported that he was abducted by five male adults,” police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said.
“We are in no doubt as to the perpetrators of this abduction. We hold Mugabe and his regime responsible for this morbid and senseless act,” opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said.
Noel Kututwa, a southern Africa deputy director for Amnesty International, called the abduction “deeply alarming.”
Simon Khaya Moyo from Mugabe’s Zanu PF party said the government had nothing to do with Dzamara’s disappearance.
“Who is Itai Dzamara? Zanu PF has nothing to do with him, let alone a serious government like ours that has so many issues to deal with rather than to concentrate on one Dzamara,” said Moyo.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Tuesday filed an application at the High Court in which it accused state security agents of abducting Dzamara and asked for his release.
Dzamara and a handful of colleagues are demanding Mugabe’s resignation on the grounds that he had mismanaged the economy.
In October last year he was arrested after delivering a petition at Mugabe’s offices calling on the 91-year-old leader to resign and pave way for fresh elections.
And in December, the activist sustained injuries while police were repressing a protest rally that he had organised.
Mugabe, 91, is the only leader Zimbabweans have known since independence from Britain in 1980.
State security agents in Zimbabwe have in the past abducted activists opposed to Mugabe’s rule and later turned them over to the police.
Some of the activists have alleged being tortured, claims which the government has denied.