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Stepping Up Crackdown, Zimbabwean Police Shut NGOs In Two Towns

Zimbabwean police on Wednesday ordered all civic organizations in Gweru, Midlands province, and Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, affiliated with the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations to close their doors.

The crackdown followed last week's directive by Labor and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche telling non-governmental organizations to halt humanitarian activities, saying they were backing the opposition ahead of a June 27 presidential run-off.

On Tuesday, 65 NGOs meeting in Harare vowed to defy Harare's order.;

NANGO spokesman Fambai Ngirande said more than 1,000 NGOs are threatened by the crackdown and on high alert, fearing the expansion of such raids nationally could lead to the confiscation of stocks of food and other humanitarian supplies.

Chairman Peter Muchengeti of NANGO's Midlands branch said organizations affected included the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Bulawayo Agenda, the Musasa Project, Doctors Without Borders and hundreds of others providing food aid, HIV/AIDS medication and support, and assistance to the victims of political violence.

Muchengeti told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the raids Wednesday set the stage for a legal challenge against Harare.

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