Crackdown on civic groups continues as police raid ZESN offices

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras

By Violet Gonda
19 February 2013

Police have been criticized for intensifying their crackdown on civil society organizations, after the latest raid on the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) offices in Harare.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras, who is also vice chairperson of ZESN, said officers raided the offices on Tuesday looking for subversive material, documents, gadgets or recordings and illegal immigrants.

Petras told SW Radio Africa that the police search warrant was the same as the one used to raid the offices of the Zimbabwe Peace Project recently.

“The raids are carried out by the Law and Order unit of the police but we don’t know where the instructions are coming from. It’s quite confusing. One minute we hear from politicians that they have been discussing this, and that attacks on civil society organizations are going to cease, and the next minute there is a raid of another organization.

“So it seems the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Petras said.

Petras said the police are on a fishing expedition to gather information and intelligence to try and disrupt the work of key organisations as the country prepares for the referendum and elections.

Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya was facilitating a Political Parties Finance Act review planning meeting at the ZESN offices when the police came to search the premises. He said it was ironic that ZANU PF had also sent its participants to this meeting.

A ZESN statement said police broke down a durawall panel and went on to search all offices, after which they took documents pertaining to ZESN’s projects and plans for observing the referendum. Earlier that same day the organisation’s Masvingo office had also been broken into at 2 am and boardroom chairs, one computer and 60 t-shirts were taken by unidentified assailants.

State sponsored intimidation appears to be increasing as the country prepares to go to the polls.

Last week scores of activists from the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise were beaten and arrested during anti-police brutality demonstrations in Harare and Bulawayo. It’s reported that at least 25 WOZA members had to seek medical attention after their treatment at the hands of police. One woman had to have three teeth removed after having been struck in the face.

A Newsday journalists was arrested on Monday at Mutare police station where he had gone to make a report after he had been threatened with death by a suspended Zanu PF provincial youth chairman.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association says the ZESN crackdown brings to a total of seven civic groups that have fallen victim to police raids within a space of two months.

Meanwhile WOZA activist, Bertha Sibanda, who disrobed inside the Bulawayo police station in protest after she was beaten during their demonstration last week, was released on bail Monday after spending the weekend in detention. Last month a ZANU PF activist Sheila Mutsenhu removed her clothes in front of the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, protesting the targeted sanctions imposed by western countries. She wasn’t arrested.

WOZA said in a statement: “It is clear that if you are a member of Zanu PF you can strip without consequence in front of the American ambassador but if you happen to be a member of WOZA, you are denied access to food, held in police custody for 4 days then you are arraigned before court that will continue to use scarce resources to persecute you by prosecution.”

Last week co-Home Affairs Minister Teresa Makone revealed that cabinet had discussed the unwarranted harassment and arrest of innocent citizens.
Although the minister is in charge of the police, she admitted that she does not have the power to make the police respect the rule of law.

Ngwenya said both Makone and deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu have to make an effort, even if their hands are tied.

“We want to see serious sounds, we want to hear vibrations, we want to hear protests, we want to hear them even talk about litigation. We want to see Teresa Makone getting out meetings with civil society and the police to reassure Zimbabweans.”

Ngwenya added: “Even if they do not have any legitimate power to do anything there is nothing that stops them from making the right noises. There is so much lethargy and paralysis in those two ministries that we wonder if they are just sitting on the leeward side of the gravy train and forgetting about the struggle.”

When contacted for comment Minister Makone said she was in parliament. We could not reach Gutu or ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo.

To contact this reporter email violet@swradioafrica[email protected] or follow on Twitter



10 Responsesto “Crackdown on civic groups continues as police raid ZESN offices”

  1. Chimbwidos Warvets says:

    “The raids are carried out by the Law and Order unit of the police but we don’t know where the instructions are coming from. It’s quite confusing. One minute we hear from politicians that they have been discussing this, and that attacks on civil society organizations are going to cease, and the next minute there is a raid of another organization. “So it seems the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Petras said.

    Oh no no Gosh Aah, Petras very soon you will find out. Keep looking outside the pathway leading to your office and you will see them coming again, this time to question your terms of reference in Zimbabwe. You should be prepared to give a rational and well thought-out answers. Otherwise, I foresee trouble for you girl.

    • Common Sense says:

      Actually I see trouble for you and ZPF exWarvet…. this only makes the peopel stronger, and your lot will be destroyed, it is the last time.

      If you support what the cops are doing… you really are a vile person

      • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

        What ever the cops are doing is none of my business as I have not bothered to find out why. All I have said is that our people should know what they up against. I have argued that is not so much about their human rights or civil rights that are at stake here. Instead, it is more about what the indigenous people of this country own and control in terms of wealth and resources that are endowed to the country. Our status in society is determined by what we own and control and not about how much human rights we have because we do not feed on human and civil rights. I argue that these human rights groups mushrooming the country are no different from the missionaries during the time of David Livingston who came to ‘discover us as if we never existed’ and to propagate the idea that we hold out for pies in the sky while we suffer here on earth in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

        While the so-called human rights groups talk about the ‘animal’ called human rights, you never hear them talk about the need to move wealth from foreign capitalists to the indigenous people of this country. For the so-called human rights groups in the country, nothing should move in terms of wealth and resources from the iron grip of white capitalists to the black people who are the indigenous people of this country. Our people should remain poor although the country is awash with sufficient resources that would make all of us happy, but the Church organisations as well as the so-called human rights groups in the country’s philosophy is ‘let wealth and resources remain in the hands of the white-man but still say there are no human rights in Zimbabwe’. This is one of the deceptions people on the African continent should understand. It is what the indigenous people of Zimbabwe own and control that will determine their status in society and not human and civil rights.

        In conclusion, civil and human rights these so-called human rights are calling for in the country will give you nothing. Let us have our priorities right, mwanawamai. Tell them we need to own and control our wealth and resources first and then we move on to improve our human rights record. Once you tell them this, they will just walk away as they would not like anything that would move wealth from the white-man to the black people of this country. I hope you understand the game, the white guys play all the time and if you can not understand their games you will always be the losers. They are always ahead of you in most instances for periods ranging from 20 to 30 years. While they plan for 2050, the black people will only plan for the next year which 2014. Let us get our act together and plan together.

  2. Mafunga says:

    No no, Chimbwido mpengo, on the contrary, I see trouble for you come post election time. You should be prepared with your well thought out answers though they will do you no good because you and all your thieving friends are going to be on trial for destroying Zimbabwe. And your judge is going to be the people. Prepare yourself to reap the whirlwind.

    • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

      Make sure in your mind that it is not equal opportunity or the quest for civil rights in the country that are at stake. Instead, it is what the indigenous people of Zimbabwe own and control in terms of wealth and resources, which the so-called human rights groups in the country do not address as it would work against their masters in Europe. The call for the indigenous people of Zimbabwe to own and control their wealth and resources which is largely in the hands of foreigners is a serious human rights issue which needs attention and yet these human rights groups do not even talk about it. Quite frankly the call for civil rights instead of fighting to own and control our wealth and resources which are still in the hands of foreigners 33 years after independence, is meaningless. In short, the so-called human and civil rights groups in Zimbabwe should have their priorities right.

      • You and the so called goverment of minority rule should have their priorities right. chimbwi .The only indigenous people YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IS ZANU PF AND THEIR CRONIES ,including their families the minority party ,what you fail to mention is in order to own and control wealth and resources you have to be part of a select few of elite ,politburo , zanu pf , zrp and zna, the rest , foot soldiers eg. your self might get some crumbs but good crumbs mind you. so you are willing to sell out our people to maintain the status quo. Africa as a whole has problems and as such cannot create ngos so the fact that the ngo s are from the west is not a surprise as they can aford to help , The chinese do not even have ngo;s operating out side china even in china for that matter , Unless you count ANJIN , they helping zanu pf relieve zimbabwe of its wealth making your politicians rich at the cost of the country and people .. The minority zanu pf goverment only cracks down on NGOs because they cannot control or fleece them of funds and what they cannot control will always be a threat to them and you.

        • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

          My discourse above is on human rights groups in the country and not about ZANU PF. In addition, I have not even addressed the question of a select few of the elite politburo, ZRP and ZNA as I have nothing to do with these entities. I am libertarian and as such I am not a member of ZANU although I subscribe to some of their philosophies such as their view on the land question and on the indigenisation of the economy.
          In my discourse above, I have argued that our people should not pay too much attention to the so-called civil rights at the expense of owning and controlling the wealth and resources of the country. In my opinion, this is where the so-called human rights groups should direct their energies in ensuring that our people own and control their wealth and resources which are largely in the hands of foreigners.This is the major thrust of my argument and not the crap you are talking about mate. Let us not loose focus and dwell on the irrelevant.

          • You need to learn to allocate blame properly , after 32 years if you cannot accept reponsibilty for ones actions you are in the wrong game ..

          • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

            Even after explaining with view to making you understand my premises of argument, you still do not understand my viewpoint. I no longer have the energy to continue spoon-feeding you. You can now help yourself by reading around the area of human rights groups and their terms of reference in Zimbabwe and everywhere else in the world. You will begin to understand that after all these groups are no as honest and genuine as you believe. These are missionaries of the 21st century propagating the messages of their masters in Europe which to all intents and purposes are geared towards influencing the mind-set of our people. Let there be closure to this subject matter as I am becoming impatient and bored by explaining the same thing over and over again.

  3. david taylor says:

    Action speaks louder than words. The CIO and military continue to operate like they are trying to save Zimbabwe from the enemy.

    And yet it is the crushing of freedom of expression in the country by the CIO and military that is the enemy.

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