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NANGO concerned with victimisation of civil society members
Kamurai Mudzingwa, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in Zimbabwe (NANGO)
October 30, 2009

The National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) expressed concern at the continued victimisation and harassment of members of civil society by government in the context of the inclusive government.

Releasing a statement on behalf of NANGO at a press conference held in Harare on October 30 2009, NANGO Board Secretary Godwin Phiri said the wanton arrests and victimisation of civil society members was a sustained campaign against Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) with the aim of throwing spanners into their work.

"NANGO is not only gravely concerned about these arrests, detentions and interrogations but also believes that these developments cannot be analysed in isolation. They have to be seen together with various hate messages that have been published in the state-controlled media warning NGOs not to be political", he said.

The press conference was organised to appraise journalists of developments after the arrest and detention of Dadirai Chikwengo, NANGO Board Chairperson and Cephas Zinhumwe, the association's Chief Executive Officer.

"On 23 - 24 October 2009, NANGO convened its annual NGO Directors' Summer School . . . After the meeting, on 25 October 2009, NANGO Board Chairperson, Dadirai Chikwengo, and Chief Executive Officer, Cephas Zinhumwe, were arrested and detained by Victoria Falls Police. They were charged under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) for having convened a "'political meeting'", explained Phiri.

The duo was released on $100 bail each and will appear in court on November 25 2009.

Phiri however, reiterated that NGOs had "the right to a voice on policy developments and decisions, the right to participate in political discourse, the right to monitor and comment on the governance process as watchdogs, and to speak up for and with the voiceless; the minorities and other vulnerable groups."

He said NANGO was willing to partner government in genuine development issues but would not encourage the victimisation of civil society members:

"As a result of the wanton victimisation of civil society members and organisations, civil society had no choice but to withdraw from a stakeholders' colloquium scheduled by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs from 28 - 30 October 2009. In an environment where the law is arbitrarily applied against NGOs it would be improper to endorse the validity of such meetings through attendance," the board secretary said.

Phiri also castigated government's decision to bar Manfred Nowack, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture from conducting the first official mission to Zimbabwe scheduled to take place from 28 October to 4 November 2009.

"Such actions not only give the country a bad image, but they also retard the shift towards the nation's democratisation and economic recovery. These actions also lay bare the fragile nature of the inclusive government," he observed.

He called upon the SADC Troika visiting Zimbabwe to "assist in ensuring the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement and the protection of the people of Zimbabwe."

Phiri also urged NGOs to remain united and to strengthen solidarity with regional and international partners whom he thanked for steadfastly supporting local civil society groups.

Visit the NANGO fact sheet

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