Minister slams NGO crackdown

HARARE - Labour minister Paurina Mpariwa has expressed concern over the clampdown on civil society organisations at a time when millions of Zimbabweans are faced with hunger.

Amid widening hunger estimated to affect 1,6 million Zimbabweans, intimidation and a crackdown of civic society organisations some of which are involved in humanitarian work has been intensifying.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF accuses NGOs of financing regime change, whether through civil education programmes or through food handouts.

However, Mpariwa, whose ministry can hardly meet the demand of hungry Zimbabweans, said government should ensure free activity by NGOs which play a critical role in assisting people.

“As Zimbabwe heads for a constitutional referendum and general election this year, political tensions are rising again. What’s disturbing are incidents of harassment, arrest, unlawful detention and office raids of civic society members, countrywide,” said Mpariwa.

ZimRights is among the growing list of civil society organisations that have been targeted by the State in the past few weeks and Mpariwa says the crackdown is disturbing especially considering that the NGOs have necessary documents that are required by the law.

“I acknowledge the role of NGOs in providing humanitarian and developmental assistance as complementary to government efforts in meeting the needs of its citizens during this harsh period where Zimbabwe is under serious food deficit.

“Millions of Zimbabweans depend on NGOs for assistance and denying them assistance will jeopardise the livelihoods of millions of Zimbabweans,” she said.

While millions are starving, police, according to Mpariwa, are still demonstrating that they are brazenly partisan and continue to side with Zanu PF, whether councillors, chiefs or MPs.

The MP for Mufakose also blasted the judiciary which on a number of occasions has denied civil society leaders bail.

“The MDC as a party subscribes to the fundamental principles of freedom of movement and association and will condemn in the strongest terms the partisan behaviour of the police and some sections of the judiciary,” she said.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) needs approximately $119 million to complete its operations in Zimbabwe until the end of March 2013, and says erratic rains, poor agricultural practices and ongoing economic challenges have pushed Zimbabwe into an increasingly critical food security situation.

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