BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
HUMAN rights defenders have described President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured)’s threat to de-register “straying” non-governmental and private voluntary organisations as a political gimmick to gag them so that they stop exposing human rights abuses by his government.
Mnangagwa, in his state of the nation address last week, threatened to introduce laws to whip vocal NGOs into line.
“The conduct of some NGOs and PVOs who operate outside their mandates and out of sync with the government’s humanitarian priority programmes, remains a cause for concern,” Mnangagwa said.
“This august House will therefore consider the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill to revamp the administration of NGOs and PVOs and correct the current anomalies.”
But the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of 20 NGOs operating in the country, said Mnangagwa’s utterances exposed an attempt to gag civic organisations from exposing the human rights violations perpetrated by his government.
“Civil society organisations are in no way a threat to the government, as they do not have any political ambition. Rather, CSOs are partners for development who have constantly called for constitutionalism and respect of human rights,” the civic group said.
The forum also said the reason why Cabinet approved amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification Reform) Act was to make it a legal tool to suppress dissent.
“If the President is genuine and sincere about his commitment to listen to the voice of the people, then he should be willing to listen to the NGOs which are a voice for the voiceless,” said the grouping.
Human rights work has often been criminalised, with the Zanu PF administration accusing rights activists of pursuing a regime change