Police Block NGO Meetings Ahead Of Polls

By Professor Matodzi

Bulawayo, July 23, 2013 – Zimbabwean state security agents have stepped up their blitz against non-governmental organisations after blocking civil society organisations from conducting education programmes in three provinces.

In Matabeleland and Midlands provinces the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) blocked six election debates organised by Bulawayo Agenda in Gweru, Plumtree, Tsholotsho and Lupane. The meetings, which were supposed to be held last week up to this week. The debates were meant to facilitate interface between various political party candidates running for parliamentary office from across the political divide and the public so as to promote citizen participation in elections.

The police told Bulawayo Agenda, the organisers of the election debates that they were only authorizing political parties to conduct their campaign activities during the run-up to the harmonised elections as they do not have enough manpower to ensure public order at civic society meetings.

In Manicaland, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), the umbrella organization for NGOs decried the shrinking operating space for NGOs after some state security agents imposed a ban on their activities.

NANGO chairperson Effie Ncube said the ban on NGO activities is reminiscent of the experiences of 2008 when a similar blanket closure of NGOs was enforced on the 4th of June ahead of the presidential polls re-run.

Meanwhile, lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have petitioned the courts through filing ex-parte applications at Tredgold Magistrates Court in Bulawayo seeking to overturn the ban imposed by police on the holding of Bulawayo Agenda election debates.