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Day threat to Zimbabwean civil society
April 17, 2007
The statement by the
Zimbabwe Minister of Information threatening to revoke the registration
of every non-governmental organisation operating in the country
is a severe blow to already beleaguered citizens and civil society
groups, says CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
Ironically, this statement came just two days before Zimbabwe's
"27 years after
Zimbabwe welcomed democracy and justice, the current government
has marked this Independence Day by clamping down on peaceful NGOs
- the same organisations that work to protect human rights,
reduce poverty and encourage the betterment of Zimbabwean society,
said Clare Doube, Manager of CIVICUS' Civil Society Watch
programme. "Rather than engaging these active and passionate
citizens in ending the current economic and social crisis, the government
is attempting to silence them."
According to reports,
Minister of Information Sikhanyiso Ndlovu made the announcement
at a meeting of ruling party supporters in Bulawayo on Monday.
the threat is deeply disturbing, as far as I'm concerned,
it was just a statement which has no legal basis. If the government
wanted to revoke registration they would have to create a legal
instrument. So far they have not done this," said Jacob Mafume,
Coordinator of the Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition based in Harare.
The same day Minister
Ndlovu made this statement, Doube and CIVICUS Secretary General,
Kumi Naidoo returned from Zimbabwe, where they had spoken with representatives
of NGOs, trade unions and church groups. Naidoo and Doube were told
about the deepening poverty in the country, and the ongoing limitations
on civil society activities, including the right for citizens to
freely express themselves and gather peacefully.
Naidoo spoke at a peaceful prayer meeting organised by the Save
Zimbabwe Campaign and Christian Alliance at St. Patrick's
Church in Makokopa, a suburb of Bulawayo - the first public
meeting since the brutally repressed 11 March gathering in Harare.
prayer meeting in Bulawayo was fortunately allowed to proceed without
police interference, this was definitely an exception to recent
practice. The increasing restrictions on civil society action in
Zimbabwe severely hamper citizen participation in making a turn
for the better," said Naidoo.
In another recent
attack on civil society, the Government of Zimbabwe has released
a report prepared by the Zimbabwe Police attempting to criminalise
legitimate civil society activity. Opposition
Forces in Zimbabwe: A Trail of Violence falsely claims that
organisations - including CIVICUS partners Christian Alliance, Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights and Women
of Zimbabwe Arise - have led a campaign inciting violence and
promoting regime change.
The report, available
on the Home Affairs website, unjustifiably states, "The Broad
Alliance's defiance campaign for regime change and overthrow
of the democratically elected Government of Zimbabwe has resulted
in a plethora of criminal activities and political violence in the
During their visit, Naidoo
and Doube also asked their fellow civic activists for suggestions
of how civil society and governments in Africa, and more broadly,
can best materialise solidarity and support for civil society in
"We Africans should
not sit back and see the people of Zimbabwe sinking deeper and deeper
into poverty and desperation every day," said Naidoo. "During
South Africa's struggle, cross-border solidarity was extremely
important. Now that we are enjoying democracy, it is our and every
African's responsibility to respond to the plight of fellow
Africans, in this case the people of Zimbabwe."
The visit of
Doube and Naidoo follows a series of activities by CIVICUS in support
of civil society in Zimbabwe. Most recently, CIVICUS and the Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition coordinated the first ever African-led civil
society solidarity visit to Zimbabwe from 26 November to 1 December
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