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The use of ICT for NGO's under repression: The case of Zimbabwe
Dirkje Jansen, Hivos
Extracted from Expression Under Repression
December , 2006

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Outline of Chapter Four
Hivos characterizes itself as an innovative donor, that supports its partners in the fight against repression and the struggle for democratic processes, and searches for ways to support its partners in their use of ICT for these causes (see chapter 1). This chapter will focus on the second sub-question raised in this paper; is ICT useful for NGO's operating in repressive non-democratic states? The data presented in this chapter has been collected during a field-trip and partner-visits in Zimbabwe, August 2006.

The second paragraph will elaborate the specific situation of Zimbabwe, in the light of repressive laws and practices connected to the (non)-democratic character of this state. The environment in which Hivos partners find themselves will shortly be explored from their personal perspective.

The third paragraph will focus on the experiences of partners in their push for democratic changes.

The forth paragraph will try to look deeper at repression as such, both from a legal as from a personal perspective. What is repression, what kind of coping strategies have Hivos' partners, and how can ICTs be used in this environment.

The fifth paragraph will reflect on the sub-question considering the results presented in this chapter.

The repressive context of Zimbabwe
Since 1998 Zimbabwe has been experiencing severe economic and political problems. Zimbabwe is far
from conforming with its constitutional, regional and international obligations as mandated under the
various charters and conventions it has singed, ratified and acceded to in order to foster an environment
that respects freedom of expression as a fundamental human right (MISA, 2005; 143). The launch of
w in May 2005 dented hopes of a government that is determined to correct its human rights record. Tens of thousands of people were made homeless after the government destroyed their shacks and businesses, effectively killing the country's informal sector. In this paragraph the main obstacles in this context for the freedom of expression will be elaborated, based on literature and interviews with Hivos' partners. To give a small impression of this context, violations towards media workers are presented below. This is just a small portion of civil society in general, and only covers the violations that were reported, but gives an idea of the current situation towards 'oppositional forces'.

All partners interviewed agree that the Zimbabwean context has become increasingly repressive. Four acts are of special interest when discussing freedom of expression and the right to privacy in Zimbabwe; Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Interception of Communication Bill. These four Acts were all put in place after the ruling ZANU-PF's near defeat in the 2000 parliamentary elections, which triggered an unprecedented wave of violence against opposition supporters. The real trigger for extreme repression towards civil society organizations, was the negative outcome of a referendum for constitutional reform due to a strong 'vote-no'-campaign causing mass mobilization, from these organizations.

Looking not only at the political context, but also at the general context, one would find that the people of Zimbabwe are calm and resilient. As one respondent1 puts it; "there is a sense of calming chaos, people keep things to their own, but inside they are bitter. The government has put out repressive instruments that in a way limit peoples expressions . . . . The government is really clever. I think what is going on is a well structured plan. They create a certain environment that makes it tough for people". Before all the above mentioned repressive acts, the people had still hope that the crisis would not take so long. As another respondent2 concludes; "now the hope is gone for democratic changes. The government showed that it doesn't care about the wishes of the people". The economic crisis, the food shortages and the increasing repression, make the majority of the people on the streets quiet and resilient. The main answer on the question 'how are you', is 'so so'.

This paragraph will go more deeply into the partners that Hivos supports, their struggles and their use of ICTs in reaching their objectives. All of these partners fit within the approach of the Hivos Regional Office in Harare, Zimbabwe, being; mobilizing civil society to start to express their discontent about the various levels of censorship, lack of human rights, and lack of access to information3. For a full overview of the partners interviewed and their specific objectives and programs, see Annex.

All of the partners interviewed have been directly repressed by the government at a certain point in time, varying from harassments on the phone, till the actual bombing of an office. In the table below, the main results of the meetings with these partners have been organized. These results will be the core of this chapter.

Some conclusions can be made from these data. As can be seen, the government is present at all the public meetings organized by Hivos partners. POSA makes it easy for the government to actually know where which meeting is held. In the case there is a demonstration they don't know of, mass arrests will be the result. The NCA is known for applying this strategy in overcoming repression; "we organize demonstrations of 300 up to 400 people. Last week we had five demonstrations in different areas, in which 200 people got arrested. It seemed that in the bigger cities like Harare, people are being detained for a longer period of time4".

Even though not all of the organizations have been associated with the opposition, the vast majority claims a negative relationship with their government. The two organizations claiming a positive relationship, are actively nurturing this relationship as a way of keeping their organization alive and coping with the repression. As the director of one of these organizations says; "one of our strategies is personal contact with the police5".

The choice between old or new media brings some interesting insights to the fore, which are of utmost importance for answering the sub-question raised in this chapter. It can be seen that the two of the three organizations that are highly active in the use of new media in reaching out to their targetgroups, prefer old media. Kubatana Trust and Radio Dialogue have their target-groups mainly on the ground, while the Crisis Coalition focuses on policy makers and civil society organizations. The first two prefer old media. This has to do with the lacking ICT-infrastructure in a country like Zimbabwe, where all the media-sectors (telephone, radio, TV, internet and newspaper) are controlled by the government. In order to reach out effectively to the target-groups, they have to deal creatively with the possibilities the environment offers. And these days, it is argued by Kubatana that; "I am worried that new media makes the activists lazy. Our strategies should go back to the basis, to how to use the postal service, the fax machines, graffiti". Creativity is central when organizations want to reach out in ways that are not government controlled.

Even though all respondents emphasize the interrelatedness of the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy, the majority prioritizes the freedom of expression considering the specific situation in which they operate. The high 'privacy' of the government, meaning a complete lack of transparency, has given a negative connotation to the word 'privacy'. All partners find ways of dealing with the intrusion on their privacy and have various ways of coping.

1. Taurai Maduna, Kubatana; interview 6-6-2006
2. Rashweat Mukunda (National Director), MISA; interview 24-7-2006
3. Andrew Nongogo program officer Human Rights and ICT, Hivos Regional Office Harare, Zimbabwe; interview 8-6-2006;
4. Lovemore Maduku, National Chairperson NCA; interview 20-7-2006
5. Nigel Johnson, Station Manager Radio Dialogue; interview 8-7-2006

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