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Masvingo Governor Puts Restrictions on 45 NGOs

MASVINGO - RESIDENT Minister and Governor Titus Maluleke summoned over 45 NGOs to an ad hoc two hour meeting to announce wide ranging restrictions on their work which began at 10 am on Friday, March 1, 2013, at his Benjamin Burombo Offices in the country's oldest town of Masvingo.

 

Maluleke was flanked by the Assistant Provincial Policing Officer, deputy Provincial CIO boss and Assistant Provincial Administrator Chitsika when he read the riot act to the NGOs, announcing that such meetings would be a routine monthly occurrence.

 

The Governor, who once banned 29 non-governmental organisations in February 2012 in the province, is said to have called the latest meeting on a short notice.

 

NGO leaders who attended the meeting were reportedly subjected to a roll-call where they were one after another coerced to reveal their work plans and partners. They were also told     that from now onwards they should work with government departments and the security sector in all their projects.

 

Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) Coordinator Gamuchirai Mukura spoke to the Crisis Report Team soon after the meeting.

 

"We were told that NGOs should now work with the district police officers and line ministries in implementing our programs.

"They told us they are going to be monitoring our donors and what programs we are being funded for and what programs we are doing, saying NGOs should not be involved in election related programs. €

 

Mukura said the latest developments signified that the State was sounding new depths in its attempt to close space for NGOs as the country heads for the crucial constitutional referendum on March 16 and harmonised elections expected later in 2013.

 

"These series of meetings will clearly be used as a platform to strangle and suffocate NGO work in Masvingo ahead of the forthcoming elections.

"The dimension the crackdown is taking has become multi-faceted in order for the ploy to be successful.

"This is evidenced by the deliberate involvement of administrators and the security sector in thwarting NGO work.

"We are worried what kind of a system is that. We don't think that will happen in a true democracy because it infringes on the independence of non-governmental organisations.

"We expect that NGOs should be autonomous organisations which   are supposed to be implementing what the government cannot do, € said Mukura.

 

The rush meeting comes hard on the heels of arrests of civil society staffers and raids and break-ins on the premises of non-governmental organisations in the town which affected NANGO, ZESN, COTRAD and ZPP.

 

The actions by Maluleke, like the widespread raids on NGOs involving the police are believed to have been triggered by the resolution made by Zanu-PF at its 13th annual National People's Conference in Gweru in December 2012. The resolution stipulated that ZANU PF would, if need be, urge government to shut down all NGOs alleged to be errant and detouring from their mandate.

 

It is believed the ban on 29 organisations in February 2012, which civil society branded illegal in a joint statement, was motivated by the resolution made by the party as its 12th annual People's Conference in Bulawayo in December 2013.

 

In a closely related development, a humanitarian organisation which gives food relief to the vulnerable communities, CARE Zimbabwe International has reportedly suspended its activities in Chivi District in Masvingo Province.

 

The non-governmental organisation reportedly cited some complications and hurdles in dealing with the Masvingo Provincial Administrator's office in a development which could see many families being exposed to hunger.

 

Masvingo is one of the hot and arid regions in the country prone to droughts and food shortages.

 

The developments in Masvingo are part of an ongoing blitzkrieg on NGOs which has seen nine organisations being raided since August 2012 and confiscation of radios from community members.

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