Civic society leaders in Zimbabwe have expressed dismay over the heavy presence of state security agents in their meetings, workshops and related activities following nationwide protests, saying this is stifling freedom of association and freedom of speech as some activists are now scared of speaking out their minds.
Some people are even scared of attending the meetings.
These concerns came out in Masvingo on Friday at a meeting convened by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition attended by civic society leaders.
The organization’s advocacy officer, Marvellous Khumalo, said the state security agents are scaring members of the public who feel that they are being monitored.
“Before I say my personal views I speak the views of the workshop what participants have been saying. The constitution allows organisations to convene these meetings and express themselves. But we have seen an escalation of the presence of the security forces who sneak into our meetings. Upon realizing that they are there some people are intimidated they become afraid of saying out their views.”
Masvingo Human Rights Trust Coordinator, Masimba Gonese, concurred, adding that civic society oganizations are concerned about this issue.
“We are very much concerned about the presence of the security agents in our workshops that have no political inclination. In fact, these state agents are actually violating the rights of citizens.”
Prophet Tapfumaneyi Zenda of Christian Voices International Zimbabwe said such action is a sign that the government is oppressing its citizens.
“There is heavy presence of state security which is an infringement of the people’s rights. We condemn that in the strongest terms. Our government gave us independence but forgot to give us freedoms as people are not free to express themselves under such circumstances.”
Masvingo based-human rights defender, Prosper Tiringidi added they won’t stop carrying out their activities even if people are being intimidated by state security agents.
"We are not going to stop doing our work although the security agents are interfering with our work. We will continue to advocate for a just country and fight for our rights as residents, despite their heavy presence.”
There was no immediate reaction from the police and Zimbabwe’s spy network, the Central Intelligence Organization.