NGOs bemoans ‘tense enviroment’

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has denounced statements by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in which he blamed civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the violence that occurred in January this year.In an interview with France 24 in early February, Mnangagwa said the violent protests were  “pre-determined, pre-planned and well-oiled by both local NGOs who are well-funded, but also the opposition MDC-Alliance.

“In its Monthly Monitoring  Report the ZPP said Mnangagwa’s statements had created a tense environment for CSOs and NGOs to operate.

“Following the utterances of the President, [NGOs} have been forced by circumstances to cancel some of their programming, as a result, the operating space has become volatile and unsafe for most programming,” the report said.

ZPP claimed Mnangagwa urged his supporters “to conduct witch hunts and crackdowns on CSOs and activists” at rallies, which led to members of the opposition “hiding, fearing attacks and charges that maybe laid on them.”

Although Mnangagwa did claim the protests were part of a “regime change agenda”, the ZPP did however,  show a marked decline in human rights abuses between January and February this year.The NGO attributed this to reduced involvement by security forces.”In the month of February ZPP recorded fewer violations and these were attributed to the sudden lull in military led retribution which saw many citizens assaulted, harassed and at worst psychologically traumatized, leaving indelible scars of fear,” said the ZPP report.

The NGO also blamed “activists” from the ruling Zanu PF party who “carried out the military led retribution with the aim of disciplining protestors alleged to be a progeny of MDC Alliance members.”According to the ZPP’s statistics, Harare province had  the highest violations for February with 46, followed by Mashonaland Central with 34, Midlands 31 and Mashonaland East with 23.The ZPP called for “more humane and dignified mechanisms”  regarding crowd control and an immediate end to use of excessive force by security agents.The NGO also called for the military to be withdrawn from the public and return to barracks accoirding to their mandate, as laid out in Zimbabwe’s constitution.The ZPP report also stated approximately 10 percent of the recorded violations were in the form of assaults, 3 percent abductions and  62 percent of the recorded violations were in the form of harassment, intimidation and threats.