By Tichaona Sibanda
11 February 2013
Police in Harare stormed the offices of the Zimbabwe Peace project (ZPP) on Monday, looking for ‘items’ allegedly brought into the country illegally.
But the lunchtime raid, targeting a group involved in documenting human rights abuses by the former ruling ZANU PF regime, has raised eyebrows within civil society groups in the country.
Macdonald Lewanika, a director with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition sent out a tweet as the seven plain clothes officers forced their way into the ZPP.
‘Seven plain clothed police officers are raiding ZPP offices in Hillside, Harare. They have a warrant for illegal entry of goods or persons or communications equipment,’ said Lewanika on his twitter page.
He disclosed that police took away violence incidence reports, about 60 phones used by ZPP’s peace corps in communities and about 60 wind-up radios.
ZPP is led by Jestina Mukoko, a former ZBC newscaster and a human rights activist who, in December 2008, was abducted and held in communicado for a number of weeks. She was tortured by security forces for allegedly recruiting youths for military training with the MDC-T. Mukoko was reportedly not in the office during this latest raid.
The crackdown is sure to inflame accusations against the partisan state security agents that they want to silence organizations involved with civic voter education and others that will be observing the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
Jameson Timba, the Minister of State in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office, denounced the raid, promising to raise the issue at the appropriate level.
‘If it is correct that some law enforcement agents are surrounding the offices of the Zimbabwe Peace Project led by Jestina, this harassment must be condemned and challenged at the appropriate level and I will do so,’ Timba said.
Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us many activists in the capital have also denounced the raid, describing the organizations being targeted as the guardians of freedom in Zimbabwe.
Police on Monday also carried out raids on the offices of the Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) and Nango in Masvingo. There are reports two people were arrested in the raids.