NGOs to report crackdown to Sadc
HARARE – Rights groups in Zimbabwe have resolved to engage regional power broker, Southern African Development Committee (Sadc) and the African Union (AU) over the detention of ZimRights director Okay Machisa accused of tampering with the voters’ roll.
Machisa’s detention has raised fears within the pro-democracy movement that government is moving in to criminalise the work of civil society, discredit it and showcase civic leaders as unpatriotic and devoid of national interest.
In a joint statement to the media yesterday, 56 Zimbabwean Civic Society Organisations (CSO) said they would take up the matter with Sadc and the AU, guarantors to the Global Political Agreement which gave birth to the inclusive government in 2009.
The rights groups also demanded a meeting with leaders of the political parties in the coalition government to raise their concerns.
“We contend that these attempts to criminalise Non Governmental Organisations, and discredit their work are wholly associated with impending elections and thus call upon Sadc, in line with their earlier summit resolutions and the AU to urge the government of Zimbabwe to allow CSOs to operate without being criminalised, intimidated and harassed as key prerequisites to the holding of free and fair elections which can pass the credibility test,” Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum director, Abel Chikomo told a news conference yesterday.
“From now on we will present our issues with Sadc and the AU as well as the facilitation team on the attacks on CSOs because this is related to elections.”
The organisations also chided the police and prosecuting authorities for deliberately misleading public opinion about their activities.
“We are certain that Zimbabwean authorities particularly the police and prosecuting authorities are well aware of the role of civil society but often times wilfully mislead public opinion about our legitimate activities as they do the bidding of political masters,” Chikomo said.
“In this respect, we note with regret and consternation, the resolution from Zanu PF December congress where the party resolved to de-register so-called ‘errant NGOs operating outside their mandate’.”
The CSOs said Zanu PF was using doublespeak and that “errant NGOs” was a euphemism for organisations such as ZimRights and others of its ilk working on human rights, governance and election issues.
Meanwhile, Raymond Majongwe of the concerned ZCTU affiliates and Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) urged civic society leaders to be more proactive in solidarity with Machisa.
“I think our main thrust now should be to be more proactive and organise ourselves as civic leaders to go to Harare Central Police Station to ask them to lock us all up,” Majongwe said.
“They are actually making it a habit that they pick us up one by one knowing that we would congregate here and give press statements. They must just take us all for once.” – Mugove Tafirenyika