ZIMBABWE’S notorious Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is stalking leaders of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with a view to monitoring their operations.
This has been brought about by the state’s quest to buttress its claim that NGOs have failed to account for funds availed by donors for the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) of 2003.
The government has accused NGOs of diverting humanitarian assistance funds to bankroll the opposition party.
The National Association for Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango), a coalition of more than 350 organisations operating in Zimbabwe, this week warned its members to be on the lookout for state agents.
Nango said it had received information that the CIO was keen to gather information from NGOs to bolster the state’s case.
Nango sent out the warning to its 350 members and urged them to be on the lookout.
“It has come to the attention of Nango that there have been reports of increased surveillance of NGOs by people believed to be state agents, at the back of an announcement by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Paul Mangwana, that a committee has been set up to probe NGOs,” it said in a statement.
“This includes people being followed, unidentified vehicles being parked around the vicinity of offices of NGOs, and NGOs being approached by strangers and asked intrusive questions about their personal lives and institutional issues.”
It said NGOs should therefore improve their security awareness and take measures to minimise their exposure to being isolated and subjected to danger.
“This involves avoiding cooperation with strangers — whose personal and work details have not been disclosed to your satisfaction — without legal representation.”
Jonah Mudehwe, director of the Nango, said his organisation had received such reports of surveillance from at least four of its members. He said the state agents have been requesting confidential information such as bank statements and audited accounts.
Mudehwe said it was an attempt to bring the organisations into disrepute.
“These reports must be taken seriously especially because of the nature of the operating environment in Zimbabwe where unlawful arrests are possible,” Mudehwe said.
Government last year barred non-governmental organisations from providing food aid following Agriculture minister Joseph Made’s insistence that the country would have a bumper harvest of 2,4 million tones of grain.
The government has accused the NGOs of embezzling funds amounting to US$88, 7 million in aid money mobilised by the United Nations Development Programme for Zimbabwe’s consolidated aid appeal in 2003.
Social welfare Minister Paul Mangwana last week set-up an eight-member committee to investigate 13 NGOs that failed to account for the money.