Harare – An online media watchdog in Zimbabwe has confirmed reports of the detention on Thursday of a student leader who held up a placard demanding jobs during a graduation ceremony at the University of Zimbabwe.
“Brave protest by student activist Tonderai Dombo, demanding jobs as Mugabe presided over UZ graduation. He was arrested,” tweeted @ZimMediaReview.
Separate sources claimed that agents of the Central Intelligence Organisation were behind his arrest. This, however, had not yet been confirmed.
Dombo was believed to have been the head of the Student Representative Council at the university, which controversially awarded Mugabe’s wife Grace a PhD two years ago.
Although there have been no protests over student fees in Zimbabwe, frustration was rising among graduates and soon-to-be graduates over the rate of joblessness in the cash-strapped and increasingly troubled southern African country. Graduation ceremonies were frequent here – Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of literacy in Africa – but jobs are hard to come by. A pavement vendor recently caused a stir by plying his trade in his academic regalia.
@ZimMediaReview said Dombo’s placard read “Tipei mabasa”, roughly translated as “Give us jobs”.
Photos circulating on social media showed the man standing amid a sea of black gowns, holding his paper placard towards the white marquees that sheltered officials.
Dombo would have known what he was risking by brandishing his placard under the nose of Mugabe, 92, who is Chancellor of the UZ.
Patson Dzamara, the brother of missing activist Itai Dzamara, also held up a placard outside the VIP tent where Mugabe was sitting during independence day festivities in April. He was taken away and assaulted by state security agents.
WomenforWomenSolidarity, an online community based in Zimbabwe, said: “We demand [Dombo] is released so that he does not disappear but is returned to safety.”
It added: “He is a student who doesn’t understand what shall become of his life after this farce of a ceremony.”
State ZBC radio reported that more than 3 600 UZ students were due to graduate on Thursday.