Govt crackdown on NGOs condemned

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s threats to deregister non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that “meddle into politics” has been dismissed as a desperate attempt to muzzle free speech ahead of the 2023 elections.

Addressing a Zanu-PF politburo meeting in Harare Wednesday, Mnangagwa said his government would not hesitate to deregister NGOs that “deviate” from their mandate.

Zanu-PF, which accuses NGOs of supporting opposition parties, has in the previous elections made similar threats.

“[President] Emerson Mnangagwa’s threat to deregister NGOs that meddle into politics is a desperate attempt to silence the opposition,” MRP president told CITE.

“His fear of losing the elections as he always does is driving him to issue these threats as he continues to advocate and lobby for one-party state.”

Rejoice Ngwenya, a member of the civic society said NGOs were guided by the law in their operations.

“First of all, in a constitutional democracy, all citizens are free to associate with and form any group of their choice,” he said.

“Better still, if such a group is a CBO (community-based organisation), PVO (private and voluntary organisation) or Trust, it is not only protected by the Constitution but also by an Act of Parliament. Now, this tendency of the Emmerson Mnangagwa regime violating its own laws smacks of criminal tendencies.”

Ngwenya said if the government was fulfilling its mandate, there would be no need for NGOs in Zimbabwe.

“NGOs have both a moral and economic reason to co-exist with the government,” he elaborated.

“My take is that the Mnangagwa government is afraid that NGOs expose its inadequacies. These threats are driven by fear of citizens, selfishness and political survival.”

Asked on whether the NGOs were innocent on the issue, Ngwenya had this to say: “It is not a question of innocence or guilt – it is a matter of principle. NGOs meant to focus on matters governance and human rights have a responsibility to citizens, not government. So instead of Mnangagwa investing in intimidating NGOs, he should focus on his governance obligations.”

Political analyst, Mkhululi Tshuma, said the threats by Zanu-PF were driven by the party’s failure to fulfill its 2018 promises.

“If there is a party that should be worried about the forthcoming elections, that party is Zanu PF,” said Tshuma.

“This is due to the fact that it has dismally failed in attaining the fulfillment of the 2018 elections promises. The accusations are just a smokescreen. Remember when a hyena wants to eat its children, it first accuses them of smelling like goats. That’s exactly what is obtaining on this issue.

He said the threats reflect the Zanu PF government’s ingratitude towards the work of NGOs in the country.

“It is the same government that has abdicated to its role of providing socioeconomic safety nets for its people, leaving a void that has been graciously taken up by these NGOs that it is now threatening,” he said.

“You will think that a normal government will create an enabling environment where these NGOs will operate without a huddle as a means of appreciation. The NGOs operate in communities and their only crime is that they are aware of the numbers of people in the communities. Zanu-PF wants to control the whole narrative. That’s why NGOs were recently ordered to report to certain party functionaries in various provinces. A rejection of that order by most NGOs is the reason behind the threats by the President.”

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