NGO crackdown sullies referendum

HARARE - An international human rights group has cast doubt on the credibility of the forthcoming referendum given the escalating arrests and intimidation of human rights defenders by State security agents.

The referendum has been tentatively set for March 16 while elections could be held in July.

Amnesty International said attacks on human rights defenders signifies that the worst is yet to come as the democratic space shrinks.

Last week police raided offices of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and also arrested members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) during a peaceful Valentine’s Day march in Harare.

“This most recent incident sounds yet another alarm bell for the exercise of internationally-guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in advance of the referendum on a new constitution and elections later this year,” said Amnesty International’s southern Africa director Noel Kututwa.

Amnesty International said it has documented a series of arbitrary arrests and raids targeted at key human rights groups suggesting the space for political dissent is narrowing as the country prepares for the referendum and election.

Although principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the foundation of the present coalition, have been preaching peace the situation on the ground tells a different story. - Bridget Mananavire

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