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on the harassment and persecution of human rights defenders
Zimbabwean civil society organisations
April 06, 2011
of Mr. Abel Chikomo, the Executive Director of the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) by unnamed state agents -
using police officers from Harare Central's Law and Order
Section as a front - is as deplorable as it is unjustifiable. The
attack on Chikomo and the Forum is not just an attack on one individual
and/or one organization but an attack on all civil society organisations
(CSOs) in Zimbabwe.
Police and all
other state agents must stop attacking the messenger and start attending
to the message.
The Forum is
operating entirely in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe. It is
difficult therefore to understand what the basis or justification
is for the continued harassment of the Executive Director of the
It is a matter
of public record that, over the years, the work of the Forum - and
that of its members and other CSOs - has contributed immensely to
the positive realization of the rights of the marginalized, vulnerable
and oppressed in our society. The work has also exposed the excesses
of the state, including gross human rights violations.
Due to mismanagement,
corruption and bad policies of the state, CSOs in Zimbabwe have
been forced to perform - and are still performing - many of the
functions of this dysfunctional state. The state should learn to
appreciate rather than attack and attempt to criminalize the work
of these legitimate organizations.
Those who dishonestly
hide behind claims of "illegality" of the Forum can
neither wish these issues away, nor seek to undermine the positive
contribution made by the Forum and other non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) to Zimbabwe and her people.
The attack on
the Forum is yet another in a long line of attempts to clamp down
on legitimate civil society and is reminiscent of similar
attacks in 2004 that culminated in the aborted draconian NGO
Bill. In recent months a number of CSOs including Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition, NANGO,
among many, have had their operations disrupted on allegations that
they were acting "contrary" to some law. Some offices
have been raided and staff harassed in unclear circumstances.
The work of
the Forum, as with other NGOs, is lawful and peaceful. Instead of
wasting scarce resources on attacks, intimidation and other harassment,
the state should be seeking to strengthen relations with CSOs to
improve the situation for the benefit of the country. The recent
SADC Troika meeting held in Zambia reaffirmed
what Zimbabwe's political leaders bound themselves to through
- bringing an end to violence, intimidation, hate speech,
harassment and any other action that contradicts the letter and
spirit of the GPA. Civil Society is demanding implementation of
The state and/or
those who seek to undermine the lawful operations of NGOs in the
country should be aware that targeting one individual or organisation
will not stop the work of human rights defenders and their organisations
in Zimbabwe until and beyond the day when democracy, accountability
and good governance are delivered.
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