Civic society organisations under the umbrella body National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) have challenged the sector’s workers’ union to ensure that working conditions are improved ahead of the next general election.
Speaking to Radio Dialogue, NANGO chairperson Effie Ncube said the Zimbabwe Educational Scientific Social and Cultural Workers’ Union (ZESSCWU) should engage government to ensure that workers within the broader civic society are protected.
“The issue of the operating environment has to be directed towards government because the union has to ensure that the environment is free from arbitrary arrests and persecutions,” Ncube said.
“Its very difficult to go out and give people humanitarian aid without being labelled as coming from a certain political party, you have to go out knowing that you can be arrested or beaten up. That is the most fundamental task for any union that seeks to work around the NGO sector.”
ZESSCWU’s Stanley Mutindindi says although it has made efforts to assist individuals, it is increasingly becoming difficult to interfere with the justice system.
“As a union we have very serious challenges in dealing with that matter because the moment a person is arrested it falls under the criminal justice system, it ordinarily becomes the press versus the accused person,” Mutindindi said.
“If they are our members and are affected, we have intervened but some of the issues are really beyond the jurisdiction of the union.”
Mutindindi revealed that the union is faced with resistance by several civic society organisations who refuse to be members of the union.
According to a Human Rights Watch World Report 2012, minimal changes to repressive laws such as Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) have failed to open up space for the political opposition and civic society.
“The Zimbabwean authorities continue to use repression and intimidation to silence human rights advocates and to prevent them from exposing abuses and promoting respect for human rights,” reads part of the report.
“Harassment and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders have intensified since January 2011.”
ZimRights director Okay Machisa was yesterday denied bail after appearing before Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe. Machisa, according to media reports, faces fraud and forgery charges related to election documents.
Meanwhile, Anglistone Sibanda a human rights activist and director of Shalom Project says there is need for the union to push for the regularisation of the civic society sector to ensure compliance to set standards. NANGO chairperson Effie Ncube dismissed the suggestions saying the sector is well regulated.