By Own Correspondent
Harare, May 15, 2016 – LOCALS civic groups Saturday demanded space for citizens to air their concerns on issues affecting their lives without any persecution from the state.
The state continues to close space allowing citizens to speak up freely on governance issues even though the country’s Constitution provides for free expression.
Two top civic groups that have led the demand for human rights and electoral equality on Saturday took the occasion of the Global Day of Citizen Action to urge a stop in the harassment of citizens.
The Election Resources Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), in a joint statement, said the commemoration comes on the “backdrop of a deliberate attempt by state actors to close democratic spaces in communities”.
Tawanda Chimhini, the ERC director, who has also championed human rights and democracy for the past decade, lamented what he said was the sudden increase of state repression on innocent citizens.
“The continued harassment and intimidation of citizens involved in democratic processes and the escalating call for Memorandum of Understandings between civil society and District Administrators across the country is a clear attempt to clampdown on civic space,” Chimhini said.
He added: “Civic space exists when individuals and organisations have the freedom to speak out, organise and take action. Civic space is under threat in many parts of the world including Zimbabwe.”
Renowned Human Rights defender and ZimRights director, Okay Machisa, said the day presented an opportunity to remind communities to take action against their oppression.
“It is also an opportunity to raise awareness and remind communities to take action and speak out against a repressive government in line with Chapter 4 (Section 58, 59 and 61) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which recognises freedoms of assembly, association, speech and the freedom to demonstrate and petition, among other freedoms,” he said.
The Global Day of Citizen Action is celebrated annually every May 14.
Machisa added: “By participating in this global event, ERC and ZimRights are affirming the importance of human rights and creating awareness locally about the importance of having the right to speak out, organise and take action and the challenges that civics face in claiming their space.”
The two organisations said they take the opportunity to provide rural communities with a chance to freely express themselves and speak up against all forms of oppression and suppression on national radio.
In 2014, the first Global Day of Citizen Action (GDCA) drew 20 000 participants through 48 events, spanning 26 countries.
In 2015, participation leapt to 30 000 people, with 116 events in 56 countries.
Currently the two partners are implementing projects that seek to engage citizens on Democracy, Transparency, Accountability and Participation across Zimbabwe.