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CSOs wary of shrinking democratic space

Local News
Transform Zimbabwe party leader Jacob Ngarivhume

THE Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) has condemned the continued closure of the democratic space, arbitrary arrests and persecution of pro-democracy activists ahead of this year’s polls.

The coalition said the jailing of Transform Zimbabwe party leader Jacob Ngarivhume for urging Zimbabweans to utilise their constitutional right to protest indicated that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration was hell bent on stifling democracy in the country.

This comes as government has been pushing  for the enactment of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill that has been described by civil society organisations (CSOs) as an instrument to stifle their activities.

The Bill sailed through Parliament and is currently undergoing proofreading at the Attorney General’s Office.

Mnangagwa is expected to ascent to the Bill.

The crackdown has led to the arrest of such prominent opposition leaders as Job Sikhala, Fadzai Mahere and Ngarivhume, among others.

“The State has made clear its intention to use law fare against dissenting voices as evidenced by the continued incarceration of CCC top official and legislator Job Sikhala, who has been languishing in remand prison since his arrest last year,” CiZC spokesperson Obert Masaraure said yesterday.

“The Judiciary and court systems in Zimbabwe continue to be used to suppress dissenting voices. The authoritarian nature of the Zimbabwean government is a betrayal of the founding values of the nation which guaranteed the right of every Zimbabwean to participate in the civil political and social affairs of the country,” Masaraure said.

He expressed disappointment that people were being punished for simply expressing themselves.

“Government, through its State security agents, has continued to perpetuate a culture of intolerance, which goes against the principles of freedom of expression, assembly, and affiliation.

“Any dissent has been met with arrests, abductions, detention and many other autocratic methods that go against the spirit of democracy and openness. The current efforts to take away the voices of citizens through the enactment of repressive laws, the use of State security agents and other rogue methods are detrimental to Zimbabwe’s political, social and economic development,” Masaraure said.

He accused government of pushing through the PVOs Amendment Bill to give it more power to control and shut down CSOs, which, in a democracy, play a critical role of providing checks and balances on policy implementation.

“Suppression of the work of civil society as has been seen lately, can only point to the shutting down of democratic space, which does not put Zimbabwe in good light,” he said.

Masaraure added: “Protesters are violently dispersed by the police and pluralistic dialogue is not encouraged and it is an indictment on government that Zimbabwe only has one operational television station and the issuing of broadcast licences is strictly controlled.”

He reminded the government that its role is not to assault the very principles that hold the country together including constitutionalism, openness, fairness, transparency and respect for the will of the people.

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