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Confronting security risks for Zimbabwe civil society ahead of elections
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI)
February 21, 2013

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1. Introduction

2013 - By any standard a watershed year for Zimbabwe with a constitutional referendum and elections expected in it - has brought a myriad of challenges for civil society. This policy briefing paper presents empirical evidence of rapidly shrinking democratic space for civil society in the face of organized and systematic state repression ahead of elections expected later in the year. The numerous incidents of harassment and attacks on civil society leaders highlighted in this paper are not random; they are a product of a carefully planned political strategy to decimate civil society, cow its leaders and reverse any democratic gains that may have been provided by the political truce under the Inclusive Government.

This paper contends that to focus on the so-called 'message of peace' from political leaders, and on the proposed new constitution, is misplaced. These are red herrings meant to divert attention from what is happening on the ground - which is the waging of war on civil society groups with a view to disrupt their activities and keep them focused on internal security concerns and not on critical analysis and action to push for genuine democratization and minimal reforms to enable Zimbabweans to vote freely in the next elections.

The call to action delivered in the paper is for civil society to urgently institute strategies and mechanism to address emerging security risks and re-position itself for agenda-setting ahead of elections. To pre-emptively and pro-actively confront emerging challenges, defend and expand democratic space, civil society must self-introspect, regroup and improve on coordinated action and strategy. This paper seeks to contribute to that process.

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