HARARE – An American national and three youth activists from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were seized from their hotel in central Harare by state security agents shortly after midnight on Friday.

The apparent abduction came just hours after they took part in a discussion, broadcast on Facebook Live, in which they reflected on youth participation in the recent elections held in Zimbabwe and the DRC.

Makomborero Haruzivishe, one of the Zimbabwean convenors of the discussion, said DRC nationals Jean Felix Mwema, Apollinaire Dialungani and Valmy Mwite were grabbed from the Palace Guest House together with Uzoamaka Okeke Ewo from the United States. He had no idea where they were being held.

“The only communication we managed to get from them following their abduction was that their captors wanted to know who participated in the discussion, and what was being discussed. They also wanted them to self-deport by buying air tickets to catch the first flight out, but the four said they have no money because they are not scheduled to fly out until Saturday,” Haruzivishe told ZimLive.

The four, all members of the Global Network for Youth Action, arrived in Zimbabwe last Sunday. They participated in a networking forum at SAPES Trust in Harare on Monday before holding workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Palace Guest House on Bishop Gaul Avenue in Kensington.

On Thursday, the four took part in an open forum held at the Batanai Gardens in which they discussed the Global Network for Youth Action’s role in increasing youth participation in governance through civic education, according to Haruzivishe.

“We had targets which we had set before the elections in Zimbabwe and the DRC, and this was a review of whether our efforts had succeeded, and a discussion on the problems faced in the elections as young people and areas where we need to improve,” he said.

He said they were concerned about the safety of the four, whose passports had been taken away.

“It’s really worrying that after a year of ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ [military coup that toppled former President Robert Mugabe] and after elections when our so-called liberators are now fully in charge, we still have people being abducted in the middle of the night,” Haruzivishe said.

“If anyone needed any evidence that Zimbabwe is not open for business, this is it. How can it be, when foreign visitors from the same countries we seek investment from are harassed like common criminals?”

The United States embassy and police have been asked for a comment. This story will be updated when their responses are received.