In a declaration, directors of 120 NGOs who met in Victoria Falls at the weekend for the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) 2009 Directors Summer School expressed concern at the failure by the unity government to address critical issues.
The declaration read: “We the leaders of 120 Non-Governmental Organisations working to enhance social, economic and political development in Zimbabwe … are concerned about the growing list of challenges yet to be addressed or resolved by the inclusive government and thus requiring immediate attention — especially in regards to social service delivery, transitional justice, promotion and protection of human rights, constitutional reform and institutional reform.”
The NGOs also noted a concern that the inter party crisis signalled by the disengagement of the MDC-T from Zanu PF, had risen at a time when Zimbabwe required cohesive, accountable and democratic government to respond to the predicted drought and the resurgence of the deadly cholera outbreak.
The declaration also noted its disappointment with the inactivity of the global political agreement and the parties’ continued unwillingness to perform their mandate and protect the people.
It also castigated the inclusive government’s failure to be accountable and transparent to the people about developments surrounding the MDC-T’s disengagement.
The declaration resulted in the arrest of Nango chief executive officer Cephas Zinhumwe and board chairperson Dadirai Chikwengo on Sunday for violating a provision of the Public Order Security Act (Posa) that bars organisations and individuals from holding political meetings without police permission.
Zinhumwe and Chikwengo were on Tuesday released on US$100 bail each and will be back in court on November 25 for routine remand.
As a result of the arrests, Nango on Wednesday snubbed a conference on law reform organised by Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa.
“These arrests demonstrate the extent to which Posa is an incredibly bad law and how it is a serious deterrent to freedom of association and freedom of assembly,” Fambai Ngirande, Nango communications manager, said.
During deliberations at the Victoria Falls conference, Chikwengo said she was taking over as chairperson of Nango at a time the inclusive government was struggling.
“I am coming in at a time when our baby (inclusive government) is failing to survive in the intensive care and relying on a machine,” she said. “It is sad to note little progress has been made in the (implementation) of the global political agreement.”
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras said that civil society was being excluded and was not respected by partners in government.
“The biggest problem is that MDC do not consult civil society in political decisions while Zanu PF do not accept and understand the role of civil society,” she said.
Petras said that the continued lack of rule of law and lack of reforms since the formation of the inclusive government meant that civil society would have to maintain their role as watchdog of the state.
“We as civil society are not here to make friends. We should remain watchdogs. Just because there is a political agreement does not mean we stop speaking when something is not going right,” Petras said “I am not going to compromise on freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of the press.”
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association director Emilia Muchawa said government had not managed to open up space for citizens to operate.
“The inter party agreement was meant to open up space… but we have seen shutting down of space in other areas.” Muchawa said. “Even though we have an inclusive government polarisation still exists”
Meanwhile, delegates at the conference expressed anger at the presence of Central Intelligence Organisation spies to monitor the deliberations of the NGOs.
One of the delegates, Edison Chiota, said at the meeting: “What do we do when we have uninvited guests at our meeting? I love to have my grandfather and aunt with me but I do not need them to follow me to my bedroom.”