The Zimbabwean government has suspended a non-governmental organization, which allegedly encouraged people to stage public protests early this year over the high cost of living following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of fuel prices of up to 150 percent.
Masvingo district administrator Ray Hove suspended with immediate effect Community Tolerance and Reconciliation Development Trust, a youth organization that promotes democracy, development and human rights issues.
Hove stressed that the NGO can no longer carryout activities of any kind in the district “pending investigations on registration and approval of your organization by our office.”
Hove declined to shed light on the circumstances leading to the suspension of NGO when he was asked by VOA Zimbabwe Service to provide details of the allegations being made against the organization.
Community Tolerance and Reconciliation Development Trust programs manager Zivanai Muzorodzi dismissed claims that the organization encouraged people to revolt against the government, adding that they are properly registered in Zimbabwe.
He claimed that the government does not tolerate any criticism or organizations focusing on issues of governance and human rights.
President Mnangagwa recently told Zanu PF supporters in Masvingo province that his government will deal ruthlessly with NGOs that allegedly encouraged Zimbabweans to stage public protests in January this year “with a regime change agenda”. At least 12 people were killed during the protests.
Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch director for southern Africa, tells VOA Zimbabwe Service’s Gibbs Dube that the suspension of the NGO is a well-calculated move by Mnangagwa’s government to clamp down on political opponents.
“This is very strange that COTRAD has allegedly been suspended by the district administrator. It is unclear whether the Masvingo district administrator has any such authority to take such a drastic measure which is unsual coming under the so-called new dispensation. But what is also important is that lawyers have quickly intervened and are seized with the matter.”
Frank Guni, a Zanu PF activist, said non-governmental organizations should complement government’s activities instead of pursuing anti-state programs.
“I think in general people must understand that all non-governmental organizations exist in Zimbabwe to complement government efforts. So, they have to abide by the rules and regulations (governing their operations) … What we understand is that this particular NGO is being suspected of having participated in influencing or encouraging people to demonstrate against the government in an illegal way which resulted in the loss of property in Masvingo province and other parts of the country.
“However, until that is proven as a fact I think operations of this NGO just like any other non-governmental organization in the country should be allowed to go on because they are people downstream who benefit from their services.”