A public consultation meeting meant to give residents a platform to contribute towards effective service delivery in their areas was curtailed after officers from the President’s Office attended the event in Chitungwiza on Thursday.
BY Edgar Gweshe
The Constitutional and Service Delivery Policy Dialogue meeting was attended by residents from different wards in the dormitory town.
During introductions, two men, clad in suits, introduced themselves as being from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
This prompted Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) programmes manager Nixon Nyikadzino to ask the men to re-introduce themselves upon which they reaffirmed that they were from the President’s Office.
The development sent shivers among residents who were in attendance at the meeting.
Interviewed people confirmed that they found it hard to answer questions or make critical statements against the authorities with the spy agents in attendance.
“There were many issues that we thought should have been discussed, but we were afraid to make contributions in the presence of these officers from the President’s Office. Some issues affecting our town are as a result of corruption by people in high places and we felt that talking about those issues would be dangerous,” said Portia Mukupe, a resident from Seke.
Another resident, Hamufari Maringa, said: “We feel that there should be a free platform for us to make contributions because you cannot openly criticise the authorities when the CIO is present. We had no option but to keep quiet about some sensitive issues.”
In an interview after the public meeting, Nyikadzino said the presence of the officers from the President’s Office was a huge cause for concern that pointed to an intimidatory tactic.
“We expect the presence of the police at these meetings because we would have notified them, but we wonder why officers from the President’s Office would attend a programme meant to promote citizen participation. Their relevance in such public dialogues is questionable.
“This shows the militarisation of the State to an extent that even public dialogue meetings are now being attended by officers from the President’s Office,” Nyikadzino said.
On another note, residents complained during the meeting over the lack of access to information saying the development was hampering their participation in issues of effective service delivery.
The residents also said that they were finding it difficult to hold authorities at Chitungwiza Municipality to account due to the fact that they were being denied entry to council meetings.