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Zimbabwe police disrupt civil society meeting

By Violet Gonda
28 August 2008

On July 21 the main political parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding which in part stated that, ‘the parties will take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of political violence, including by non-state actors, and to ensure the security of persons and property.’

But as usual the Mugabe regime is reneging on its promises and harassments and arrests are continuing. Early this week several MDC MPs were arrested, and on Thursday heavily armed riot police disrupted a meeting of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition at a hotel in Harare.

The Coalition’s information officer Tabani Moyo told Newsreel the police claimed the meeting held at Cresta Lodge was illegal. Moyo said this was an Annual General Meeting, an internal gathering of the civic group that did not need police clearance. Some invited members of the diplomatic community were present at the AGM, which had gathered to elect a new board when the riot police stormed the venue.

The information officer believes this is a deliberate and calculated move by the regime after it was left unsettled following a humiliating defeat for the Speakership position in parliament. He said ZANU PF had given itself a cooling off period soon after the violent elections, but the latest events are “a signal that the inter party talks are heading towards a hard rock, and that the state machinery is reactivating itself.”

Meanwhile Elinor Sisulu, a spokesperson of the group said in a statement: “They are being very rough, and unreasonable. They are threatening us with arrest and saying that our gathering is illegal.”

She added that the attack on civil society violated the terms of the MoU, which clearly states there should be an environment that allows social welfare organisations to operate without intimidation.

Isabella Matambanadzo, Zimbabwe Programme Manager of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa said: “It is high time that the SADC, AU and UN took these threats against Human Rights defenders seriously. There have been more than enough incidents of rape, death and shocking levels of torture to enable the UN to act decisively. Rights groups have documented what shows beyond a shadow of any doubt a systematic project of elimination pioneered by ZANU PF.”

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