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Government of Zimbabwe Widens Crackdown On Civic Organizations

The government of Zimbabwe stepped up a crackdown on civic groups, pressuring a number of non-governmental organizations in Harare this week.

Police showed up Wednesday at the Harare offices of the National Constitutional Assembly and demanded to see the group's registration papers. They also visited the headquarters of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations.

Sources told VOA that the police shut down the offices of Transparency International, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association or ZimRights, and Conflict Management Transformation, but these reports could not immediately be confirmed.

In the Mashonaland West province town of Chinhoyi, plainclothes police were said to be in circulation forcing NGOs there to close their doors..

Police this week closed NGOs in Gweru and Gwanda. NCA offices in Masvingo and Gwanda were also closed following threats by ruling party youth militia.

National Constitutional Assembly Director Ernest Mudzengi told reporter Patience Rusere that the NCA will continue its work despite official pressure.

Meanwhile, ZANU-PF youth militia and former war veterans in eastern Manicaland province were reported to have seized 20 metric tonnes of food intended for students at 26 primary schools. The New York Times quoted U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee as describing the incident and commenting that the government "will stop at nothing, even starving the most defenseless people in the country”.

The Times account said truck was while making the rounds of the schools. It quoted U.S. officials as saying Manicaland Provincial Governor Tinaye Chigudu instructed police and war veterans to take charge of the truck, which was then sent to a police station in a place called Bambazonke, where its contents were distributed to supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party at a hastily organized rally.

National Director Rev. Forbes Matonga of Christian Aid, a distributor of food aid, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is inadvisable for agencies distributing food aid to continue field operations during the campaign for the country's June 27 presidential run-off election as food politics is in full swing.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...