NGOs plot mass action to protest crackdown on Mnangagwa critics

HARARE – The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), a grouping of over 75 civic society groups, has threatened to organise large-scale protests in response to the persecution of human rights defenders.

The call comes as government workers have vowed to stage mass job boycotts starting next Monday to press for better pay.

CiZC leader Peter Mutasa, speaking during a news conference in the Harare, accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime of cracking down on dissent instead of addressing the country’s multifaceted crisis.

“It has become quite apparent that the state is keen on entrenching authoritarian rule and pursuing its agenda of a one-party state and for us, this is a call to action,” Mutasa said.

“We therefore, reiterate that we shall pursue all avenues necessary to resist entrenchment of authoritarian rule and this includes strengthening advocacy initiatives at the regional and international level.

“Human rights abuses, continued mutilation of the constitution, a dishonest, parasitic and extractive national economic system clearly remains a threat to inclusive economic growth and national development.”

The government is set to pass the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill, which will deregister civil society groups considered by the justice minister to be operating outside their mandate – sweeping new powers which critics say are designed to silence critical voices.

Mutasa said a raft of “draconian laws” being considered by the government were targeted at silencing dissenting voices speaking out against misgovernance and corruption.

“The enactment of draconian laws that include the Data Protection Act enacted in December 2021, amendments to the PVO Act among other draconian pieces of legislation is a calculated move to criminalise anyone seeking to hold the government to account,” he said.

“In the same vein, the PVO Amendment Bill seeks to shut down many private voluntary actors, including those providing humanitarian assistance across the country and ensure that citizens impoverished by years of economic mismanagement are vulnerable to the dictates of corrupt politicians.”

Mutasa said they also “note with concern that law enforcement agents continue to act as appendages of the ruling party, Zanu PF, in violation of the country’s constitution.”

Political analysts and opposition parties fear the law changes and targeted arrests of government critics point to disputed general elections next year.

The main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change, led by Nelson Chamisa, recently called for electoral reforms and stakeholder dialogue ahead of the 2023 elections.

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