Tsvangirai summons ministers

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has summoned two ministers over the escalating crackdown by the police on Zimbabwean human rights defenders.

Tsvangirai has met with co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone, responsible for the police, and Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Mpariwa, to express worry over the rising cases of arbitrary arrests and raids targeted at key human rights groups ahead of  the March 16 referendum and subsequent general election.

Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, confirmed the meeting, and said the PM has urged robust action from the ministers to put an end to the crackdown.

“He made concerns about developments on the ground which point to continued harassment,” Tamborinyoka said.

“The PM wants a conducive environment for the referendum and election. He remains concerned about goings-on on the ground.”

Tsvangirai’s action follows a police raid at the offices of election monitors Zimbabwe Election Support Network in Harare and Masvingo last week ostensibly to look for short wave radios.

Earlier last week on Monday police raided the office of the Zimbabwean Peace Project (ZPP) in Harare with a warrant to search for “subversive material and illegal immigrants”.

This follows the brutal crackdown on a “love march” that saw eight members of Zimbabwean women’s social justice movement, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza), arrested outside the Zimbabwean Parliament in Harare for handing out roses and teddy bears during their annual Valentine’s Day demonstration.

The police have also raided and arrested pro-democracy activists at Zimrights including the chairperson, Okay Machisa, raided the National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) and outlawed meetings by the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ).

Civil society groups appealed to Tsvangirai at a recent State-civil society interface forum at the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition head office held in Harare, to stop the crackdown.

Tsvangirai said plans were on course to ensure the conduct of the security sector is in sync with the dictates of Article 13.2 of the GPA.

“During the last National Security Council, we were discussing a code of conduct for the police and the army and that is already work in progress,” Tsvangirai told civil society leaders."

“We will ensure that their conduct is codified and aligned with professionalism and integrity.”

Civil rights activists say Zimbabwe is heading toward a “flawed transition”, characterised by positive reforms but with the incumbent still determined to manipulate State institutions and electoral processes to gain an unfair advantage that allows it to retain State power.

“However, at this juncture the incumbent might be trying to gain political legitimacy through grand concessions such as on the Constitution and election dates without ceding much on democratising State institutions which gives room for manipulation of the whole process,” said Phillan Zamchiya, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional coordinator.

“However, due to the fact that Sadc, civil society and the media have kept on trekking the transition and exposing the anomalies, it appears difficult for the incumbent to opt for a derailed transition.” - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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