Zanu PF steps up NGO surveillance

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF has launched an invasive mass surveillance of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and health workers in a move that risks violating their right to privacy and freedom of expression.

A Zanu PF central committee report that was presented before the party’s dump squib annual conference held in the ancient town of Masvingo early this month, said the department of transport and social welfare in the ruling party mid this year organised a workshop where participants made recommendations to infiltrate and spy on NGOs.

The workshop agreed to “intensify the monitoring of NGOs to ensure that they remain apolitical” and also to ensure that “social health workers seconded to the child protection committee and child workers programmes must be vetted and closely monitored to ensure that they remain apolitical”.

Evidence that Mugabe’s party is tightening its control on the lives of the people coincides with a new report by the Human Rights Watch that concludes with a request that an international investigation be carried out into Zanu PF’s “deplorable” record on its citizens’ rights.

“Provincial secretaries for transport and social welfare must be assigned party vehicles.

“This will help them effectively monitor and supervise activities in their provinces,” reads part of the central committee report.

And to help the party officials monitor the activities, a fleet of 20 motorcycles was received as a donation in 2013, but the bikes are yet to be assigned as they are still unregistered because of resource constraints, but “will be deployed to provinces in time for 2018 election campaign.”

In the past, the Mugabe-led regime has descended hard on NGOs which are accused of siding with opposition political parties and several have been shut down, particularly ahead of elections.

Ahead of 2013 general elections, former governor for Masvingo Titus Maluleke caused an outcry when he caused the ban of more than 45 NGOs which he accused of meddling in the country’s politics.

And also ahead of that disputed poll, police banned radios, which operated on shortwave in rural areas.

This was despite the fact that most of the affected areas were not covered by the partisan and then sole national broadcaster, ZBC. Outlying areas such as Beitbridge, Mudzi, Victoria Falls, Plumtree and Mt Darwin did not receive the ZBC signal.

Poor reception, intermittent or non-existent power and low levels of disposable income ensured that very few people could watch or listen to ZBC TV or its radio stations.

In the weeks leading to the 2013 elections, Zanu PF also raided offices of NGOs and seized the seemingly harmless radios.

Analysts said the latest move showed that a rattled Zanu PF is fearful of the looming 2018 election which it could contest against a broad coalition that would include its eternal nemesis the MDC as well as the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) whose interim leader is former vice president Joice Mujuru.

While opposition parties are still bickering over the composition of the proposed grand coalition — the ruling party appears to have a head-start and has acquired more than 360 vehicles that will be used during the campaign.

Observers fear that a deeply-divided Zanu PF, that has dismally failed to steer the economy on a recovery path will go for broke in the forthcoming elections.

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