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CCDZ condemns clampdown on civil society and ongoing harassment of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe
Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ)
March 01, 2013

The Centre for Community Development In Zimbabwe (CCDZ) condemns in the strongest of terms the harassment of human rights activists and clampdown on civil society. The incarceration of human rights defenders and NGO office raids by State authorities is a well calculated strategy by some elements in the inclusive government to limit the work of NGOs ahead of the Constitutional Referendum on March 16 and the forthcoming elections.

In the past weeks, civil society has been the target for attack by state security agencies and militia groups but what is disturbing is police inaction in bringing the perpetrators of these violations to book. We are shocked at the lack of professionalism by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) who always have excuses why they are cannot bring perpetrators to book. Attacks on CSOs have taken one or more of the following:

  • Disruption or banning of civic education meetings organized by CSOs by police and vigilante/militia groups. A CCDZ-organized meeting in Kwekwe was besieged by slogan-chanting members of the shadowy Al-Shabab group last month. Another peace-building meeting organized by CCDZ at Dhirihori in Marondera was banned by police because the former ZANU-PF minister Tracy Mutinhiri who has defected to the MDC-T was in attendance at the CCDZ meeting.
  • The raiding of offices of CSOs by police offices who are armed to the teeth like what happened a fortnight ago to the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (ZESN), Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) and Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP).
  • The incarceration of civil society activists and community mobilizers. ZimRights director Okay Machisa and Programme Co-ordinator Leo Chamahwinya were arraigned before the courts on trumped up and politically-motivated charges. CCDZ Advocacy officer George Makoni and community mobilizer Gift Konjani were arrested in Chegutu for holding a meeting with residents on the new constitution and forthcoming elections.
  • The attempt by the State to ban/proscribe human rights and democracy advocacy networks because they are not registered under the Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs). This is despite the fact that most of the NGOs are lawful entities operating as trusts.
  • Civil society leaders continue to receive threats if they continue to do their work in exposing human rights abuses taking place within communities.

These trends are consistent with a venal and authoritarian state that has no regard whatsoever for people’s rights and freedoms. We call upon the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to execute its mandate in a professional and non-partisan manner and bring to book all the perpetrators of rights violations without fear or favour. We urge ZRP to stop harassing civil society organizations who are doing their work in providing goods and services for the good of our country. The coalition government should treat civil society as partners rather than foes.

The office raids by police and incarceration of civil society activists is meant to cow civil society into submission ahead of the planned elections. We call upon government to reign in these partisan officers who are acting as political commissars and failing to execute their duties in a professional manner as spelled out in the Police Service Charter.

We reiterate our calls for the intervention of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to expedite the elections roadmap and address our concerns about the urgent need for Security Sector reforms.

Visit the Centre for Community Development fact sheet

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