Police raid on NGO suspicious

HARARE - Yesterday police raided the Counselling Services Unit (CSU) head office in Harare ostensibly to search for subversive material.

While police had a search warrant claiming that the CSU is in possession of material that contravenes Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, we all know that the police are frantically trying to aid the Zanu PF regime in destroying evidence on human rights atrocities that have been meticulously recorded by the NGO.

Coming as it does hard on the raid of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz) twice in August, all indicators reveal that the country is entering a deadly phase where civic groups are once again coming under pressure from security agents.

Each time these raids are conducted, there is some flimsy reason.

We roundly condemn the arrest of five CSU employees who have been held at Harare Central Police Station.
More importantly, we denounce the arrest of our photojournalist Watson Ofumeli caught up in this raid for merely doing his job of taking pictures while police were on their dastardly mission.

We demand that police return the seized equipment, including a computer and CSU documents, and cease and desist from this unwarranted harassment.

The terror tactics being employed by the police are shrinking the democratic space and consolidating autocracy.

Like Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition noted yesterday, it is likely the alleged perpetrators of human rights violations are seeking to destroy evidence as transitional justice dawns.

The raid comes as President Mugabe has clearly stated that there will be no holy cows in dealing with 2008 killers.

We remain deeply concerned about the prosecution of NGOs in Zimbabwe.

We also insist that the police must be there to serve the people and not protect the regime.

Storming NGOs, interrogating Zimbabwean citizens, and seizing equipment risks straining relations with pro-democracy countries.

This threatens the impending aid from Western countries and Bretton Woods institutions.

Just last week, the IMF announced it was mulling resuming technical cooperation with Zimbabwe.

But that cooperation is tied to Zimbabwe’s commitment to a democratic transition.

The authoritarian side of the inclusive government must heal its stormy relationship with the NGOs that operate outside of its control.

It has laid down stringent conditions for NGO registration. Even then, many NGOs are still vulnerable to crackdowns whenever it is politically expedient.

There is need to remove tension from the relationship and government must find better ways of handling NGOs. - Staff Writer

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