THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Zimbabwe Briefing Issue 56
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA Regional Office)
December 14, 2011

Download this document
- Acrobat PDF version (351KB)
If you do not have the free Acrobat reader on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking here

Police Intensify Crackdown on Civil Society Actors

That president Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's only leader since attainment of independence in 1980, and is Zanu PF party are strongly calling for elections early next year gives a false impression that major steps have been taken to level the political field in preparation for free and fair elections.

However the developing trend of intensified harassment, intimidation and detention of civil society activists confirms that very little has changed - politicized and partisan state institutions such as sections of the police continue to align themselves with Zanu PF in their persecution of civil society actors through a subversion of the rule of law and use of various draconian pieces of legislation that remain on statute books.

On 5 December Gwanda police arrested two Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) employees, Ms. Fadzai December and Ms. Molly Chimhanda together with MMPZ member, Gilbert Mabusa for allegedly contravening section 25(1) (b) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), for allegedly 'participating in a gathering without seeking authority from the regulating authority' and also for allegedly contravening section 37(1) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, by 'distributing material that is likely to provoke a breach of peace'.

On Tuesday 6 December 2011 police in Harare raided and picked up MMPZ Project Coordinator, Andrew Moyse for allegedly possessing some materials on Gukurahundi (the 1980s massacre of members of the minority Ndebele people) and confiscated some Digital Video Disc (DVD)'s from the organisation's offices.

They later released him after going through an interrogation session which lasted several hours. The unwarranted acts of harassment and intimidation are not isolated. In recent weeks police have arrested and detained independent media editors and journalists on spurious, politically motivated charges.

Zanu PF is strongly resisting any reforms to the police and other sections of the security sector to make them genuinely independent, professional and non-partisan. In the absence of such critical security sector re-alignment to desist from political interference and from partisan conduct, Zimbabwe cannot hold free and fair elections.

In light of renewed attempts by state agents to muzzle the independent press and silence civil society actors as characterized by the unwarranted harassment, detention and intimidation of journalists and activists, Zimbabwe's civic movement has taken long to rally together in defence of fundamental freedoms. The human rights and democracy community has not always publicly identified with victims of regime brutality for a number of reasons, such of which may have to do with a false sense of security that is derived from maintaining deafening silence when colleagues are under attack.

The onslaught on democracy and its defenders will not relent because citizens have chosen the route of silence. Only open defiance and speaking out in defence of our rights can stop this upward trend in rights abuses.

These unfortunate and worrying attacks be the regime show clearly that, contrary to pronouncements by those within Zanu PF that Zimbabwe is ready and should go for polls early in 2012, little has changed in our political environment characterized by extreme repression and subversion of the rule of law. The political field remains uneven, titled in favour of Zanu PF. Under such conditions, there is no way Zimbabwe can hold free and fair elections.

It is great wonder why anyone would blindly push for sham elections under an skewed political field, unless the idea is for a particular political party to benefit from the uneven political field.

2011 saw little, painfully slow progress being made in the areas of instituting critical electoral reforms; 2012 should be devoted to completing critical reforms that pave way for free and fair polls.

Essential pillars for any functional democracy are a robust, free and independent press and a vibrant civil society sector. It is no wonder that elements opposed to fundamental freedoms would target these two pillars for attack, harassment, intimidation and vilification. When subjected to such a relentless onslaught, it is of paramount importance that individuals and institutions concerned with democracy should come together under a common banner to defend values they cherish.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), and particularly South African which is mediating over Zimbabwe's peace process should insist that there should be no elections in Zimbabwe until the political field is level, state institutions are independent and guarantees are in place for a free and fair election where violence or intimidation play no part.

Download full document

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe fact sheet

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.