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Human Rights Activists Want SADC, AU to Stop Police Harassment

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Civil society organizations say they want the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to intervene and stop Harare from harassing, intimidating and arresting rights activists ahead of the constitutional referendum and crucial elections expected to be held sometime this year.

The groups said they will soon file a formal SADC and African Union (AU) complaint, seeking immediate intervention.

In a statement, they said the on-going crackdown against civil society organizations and its leaders is meant to criminalize and discredit their work in communities ahead of the polls.

They called for the guarantors of the coalition government to lobby the government to allow CSO’s to continue their work in Zimbabwe without being criminalized, intimidated and harassed.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director, McDonald Lewanika, told VOA the AU and SADC, as the guarantors of the global political agreement that led to the formation of the unity government, should intervene to ensure that sanity prevails in Harare.

Since the start of the year, some 10 organizations including ZimRights, Zimbabwe Peace Project, Radio Dialogue and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network have been raided by the police.

Arrested activists have been charged with alleged voter registration fraud, conducting voter education without licenses and distributing unlicensed shortwave radio receivers.

Lewanika said these activities are "a dress rehearsal" of what may happen during the elections and "if civic society is unable work freely in the country then there will be no a free and fair election".

Meanwhile, most people have been complaining that lack of access to the draft charter has hampered their efforts to participate in public meetings reviewing draft.

But Hwange listener pastor Elias Ncube of the Methodist Church said most church leaders did not have a problem with the time given to the public to study the draft ahead of the vote.

Listener Naomi Pfunguro of Mutasa, Manicaland Province, said it is easy to access a copy of the draft constitution and is looking forward to the referendum on Saturday.