BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
GOVERNMENT has suspended the operations of Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (Cotrad), an independent youth-oriented non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Masvingo.
According to a suspension letter dated March 11 written by one Tongafa N on behalf of the Masvingo district administrator (DA), Roy Hove, the youth-based organisation was allegedly operating illegally.
“Following our meeting, you are advised that your operations in Masvingo district have been suspended with immediate effect,” the letter read.
The letter was copied to Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Ezra Ruvai Chadzamira, provincial administrator Fungai Mbetsa and the President’s Office.
“You are not supposed to carry out any activities of any kind whether as an organisation or involving the community in the jurisdiction of the district pending investigation on registration and approval issues of your organisation by our office.”
The suspension comes weeks after President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed a rally in the province where he threatened to descend on lawyers, doctors and NGOs perceived to have backed the January protests over fuel price hikes.
Early this week, Zimbabwe Peace Project disclosed that a number of NGOs were last month forced to cancel their programming for fear of victimisation after Mnangagwa’s threats.
Cotrad said the suspension shows a systematic crackdown on independent voices by the Zanu PF government.
“It is now a trend that whenever the Zanu PF government is faced with public outcry, it resorts to cracking the whip on NGOs for helping citizens demand what is rightfully theirs. It is clear that government is not opening up for democracy as the new dispensation mantra continues to feed,” Cotrad said in a statement yesterday.
“This crackdown on NGOs is a move reminiscent of the run-up to the 2008 elections period (and also) when then Masvingo governor Titus Maluleke in February 15, 2012 read the riot act to NGOs operating in the province by indefinitely suspending 29 of them from conducting operations.”
Cotrad programmes officer Brighton Ramusi said they will contest the decision as they are a legally registered trust and cannot be stopped by the DA.
“We have engaged our lawyers and we want to appeal against the decision by the DA as we have complied with the country’s laws and we are in conformity with the laws of the land when it comes to registration issues,” he said.
Cotrad said its agenda was inspired by the values of human rights and the desire to encourage youth participation in building sustainable justice, freedom, peace and development.
Zanu PF has always accused civic organisations of being agents of opposition parties and perpetrating a regime change agenda.