Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on the inclusive government to urgently take measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders and CSOs ahead of a constitutional referendum and general elections both expected to be held this year.
In a joint statement, the over 70 civic organisations said CSOs suddenly become endangered species once there is an indication of a political contest particularly an election.
“While we will not be surprised if they succumb to the temptation, we urge the government of Zimbabwe to desist from this disastrous and unwarranted trend and recant violence and intimidation as tools for engagement in national affairs, especially as the country moves towards a constitutional referendum and a general election in 2013,” reads the statement.
“We take such harassment , which recently culminated in the arrest, prosecution and detention of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) Director Okay Machisa who is also Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition chairperson, as meant to scare and silence organisations that have been advancing genuine people’s development.”
The CSOs have since called upon SADC and the African Union (AU) to push the inclusive government to allow CSOs to operate without being criminalised, intimidated and harassed.
National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) chairperson Effie Ncube recently told Radio Dialogue that the Zimbabwe Educational Scientific Social and Cultural Workers’ Union (ZESSCWU) should engage government to ensure that workers within the broader civic society are protected.
CSO solidarity partners have been urged to picket at the Zimbabwean Embassies and their local Foreign Affairs ministries in condemning the harassment of civic organisations and human rights defenders.