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security risks for Zimbabwe civil society ahead of elections
Democracy Institute (ZDI)
February 21, 2013
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2013 - By any standard
a watershed year for Zimbabwe with a constitutional referendum and
elections expected in it - has brought a myriad of challenges for
civil society. This policy briefing paper presents empirical evidence
of rapidly shrinking democratic space for civil society in the face
of organized and systematic state repression ahead of elections
expected later in the year. The numerous incidents of harassment
and attacks on civil society leaders highlighted in this paper are
not random; they are a product of a carefully planned political
strategy to decimate civil society, cow its leaders and reverse
any democratic gains that may have been provided by the political
truce under the Inclusive Government.
This paper contends
that to focus on the so-called 'message of peace' from
political leaders, and on the proposed new constitution, is misplaced.
These are red herrings meant to divert attention from what is happening
on the ground - which is the waging of war on civil society groups
with a view to disrupt their activities and keep them focused on
internal security concerns and not on critical analysis and action
to push for genuine democratization and minimal reforms to enable
Zimbabweans to vote freely in the next elections.
The call to action delivered
in the paper is for civil society to urgently institute strategies
and mechanism to address emerging security risks and re-position
itself for agenda-setting ahead of elections. To pre-emptively and
pro-actively confront emerging challenges, defend and expand democratic
space, civil society must self-introspect, regroup and improve on
coordinated action and strategy. This paper seeks to contribute
to that process.
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