The United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, says civil society organizations must be allowed operate as long as they are working within the law.
In a public presentation to remember American clergyman and African-American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Junior, Ambassador Wharton said partnerships between government and civil society organizations are important.
He said these organizations play an important role in representing the interests of different groups of people to the government.
He acknowledged that governments sometimes find it difficult to work with these groups, but said that they offer citizens a means to influence their government peacefully and effectively.
As such, he said, organizations that operate within the law must be allowed to continue.
He said America would not be where it is today if it were not for civil rights activists like Dr. King and the civil society organizations he worked with for racial justice.
Dr. King advocated non-violent civil disobedience to advance the cause of civil rights for non-white Americans. His work is credited with changing laws and attitudes in the U.S.
After he was assassinated in April 1968, leaders began discussing the possibility of a holiday to commemorate his achievements. In the 1980s, the U.S declared the third Monday in January Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which usually falls on or around Dr. King’s birthday.
The Zimbabwean government has been accused of intimidating and harassing civil society organizations, accusing many of them of pursuing a regime change agenda.
Last year, Masvingo’s provincial governor banned 29 organizations from operating in the area, alleging they were involved in politics.
For his part, Ambassador Wharton praised Zimbabwean civil society organizations for successes in the areas of human rights, education and health.