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Matebeleland North: Forbidden ground for civic activity
Bhekumusa Moyo
July 14, 2011

Political and civic space is shrinking in Matabeleland North with organizations being denied clearance even when applied well in time. It has become taboo in the province to speak the words like 'peace- and "development". This has come as a crippling kick to programs of these organizations. Political parties have not been spared; save for the evil crew of ZANU PF which is enjoying a monopoly of the political space in Matabeleland North as they hold meetings when they please.

ZANU-PF had a meeting on Thursday the 7th of July 2011 and this reporter is reliably informed that a similar meeting happened on the 9th of July at the Lupane Local Board Hall. To demonstrate their partisanship, the Lupane Police refused the MDC-T to hold its District Assembly on the 11th of July at a private place in Lupane. "It-s now a trend, if you don-t belong or aligned to ZANU PF you cannot be cleared", said a member of the MDC-T District Assembly.

Earlier in the month of July, Professor Welshman Ncube was summoned to Hwange Police Station for "advise" with his delegation. The Matabeleland North Police have unceremoniously earned themselves a name as being the grandmothers of arresting civic society members and government officials who are not members of ZANU-PF. They brag of having Prime Minister Tsvangirai-s vehicle in their custody, arresting Bulawayo Agenda staff, ZimRights staff, denying NYDT and LYDT clearance.

Alfred Sihwa the Coordinator of Lupane Youth for Development, a youth organization based in Lupane bemoaned the unfair application of the draconian POSA. They had a meeting scheduled for the 14th of July in Lupanda, deep rural Lupane. It was denied clearance for the reason that Minister Nhema will be in the town on Friday. He said his organization is targeting a vulnerable group of youths and the government is doing nothing to help the situation only to deny them a chance to interact and support these young people.

"I understand that I notify Police officers of meetings not apply for clearance. The cancelling process negatively affects our programs. If I am told to cancel the meeting exactly on the day of its happening it makes my organization lose credibility. I use a lot of resources avoiding to be arrested as I move up and down to and from the police station," said Mr. Sihwa who was infuriated by the cancelling of his youth meeting.

"I think Matabeleland North is under threat as a province, just look at the arrests happening. You will never know what is going to happen to us next", he added. His organization is not the only one that has been affected by the unpopular POSA. The National Youth Development Trust also has been denied clearance for a meeting which was scheduled for the 16th of July 2011. Earlier in the year NYDT was denied clearance until they had a court interdict.

The regulating officer was not in office to state the reasons why meetings are not cleared. The officer who received the phone who identified himself as Chinos confirmed that they had a couple of applications denied this month in Lupane.

"Matabeleland North is under threat for sure. To prove this, ask Minister Mzila, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Professor Welsman Ncube, Mziwandile Ndlovu, Florence Ndlovu and other organizations working in the area. I don-t know why the police of this region are doing this. It affects us and leaves us isolated from the rest of the country activities. The only activities allowed have to be aligned to ZANU PF. POSA must go" said a young person who chose to be anonymous after being asked to comment on the cancellation of a youth meeting which was scheduled for the 16th at Matshabalala Hall in Lupane by NYDT.

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