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Operating space for civil society in Zimbabwe shrinking ahead of planned elections
Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ)
February 12, 2013

The space for civil society organizations is continuously shrinking in most rural areas ahead of the referendum and elections. The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) is facing challenges mainly from partisan police and bureaucrats at district and provincial levels who are disrupting planned activities.

Local bureaucrats (District Administrators, Provincial Administrators and Governors) are denying civil society organizations operating space in Mashonaland and Masvingo provinces. It is difficult to convene civic education meetings as programme officers are told to seek clearance from police, DA, PA and the governor's office. The governors are demanding that organizations produce Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) and all the material to be issued out at meetings as well as presentations before the meetings are cleared.

In Wedza in Mashonaland East province, CCDZ was told that the governor, Aeneas Chigwedere that ZANU-PF has to endorse all the meetings that are held in the province.In Mazoe, CCDZ failed to hold a meeting with traditional leaders. Chief Negomo argued that NGOs are fronts of the MDC-T that are being supported by the West "to divide our people". In Bikita East in Masvingo province, the DISPOL for the area Assistant Inspector Mubaiwa dismissed the CCDZ officials arguing that "it's the rain season and you are disturbing our farmers." Inspector Mubaiwa added: "We could have allowed you if you are distributing maize or if you want to talk about indigenization and economic empowerment not civic education". He denied CCDZ clearance arguing that the organization did not have a MOU with Masvingo Governor Titus Maluleke.

In Murereshi village in Karoi people complained that they are forced to chant slogans at Village Development Committee meetings. In Kwekwe, CCDZ meeting at Mbizo Youth Centre was disrupted by Al-Shabab, a shadowy ZANU-PF -aligned terror group. The Al-Shabab occupied the venue of the meeting and told about 70 participants to go home and not attend any meetings called by NGOs.

The CCDZ director, Philip Pasirayi said that what is happening is not different from what human rights and governance NGOs experienced in previous elections.He said: "Attacks directed at NGOs have increased in the past few weeks. This is part of a strategy to muzzle NGOs and make sure that people only have access to partisan information. We have seen it previous elections that NGOs become the targets for intimidation and harassment".

"This is the reason why as civil society we are saying it is wrong to go for the next elections without reforming these partisan and abusive State institutions including security sector reform. We demand a professional army and police and an independent electoral management body to replace the current partisan one. This is the only way the next elections will bring about a legitimate and uncontested government", said Pasirayi.

Below are some of the violations recorded in the period January-February 2013:

Visit the Centre for Community Development fact sheet

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