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NGOs blast police over venue requirements

CHINHOYI — Civic society has blasted the police for demanding a letter of consent from venue providers whenever non-governmental organisations (NGOs) hold public meetings, saying the new requirement curtailed their operations.

Report by Nunurai Jena
The organisations said the new requirement was also an attempt to intimidate venue providers and deny NGOs a chance to carry out their operations.

 
Zimrights director, Okay Machisa said the issue of the venue concerned the convener of the meetings and not the police.

 
He said the police were determined to close the democratic space by putting up measures that restrict the operations of NGOs. Zanu PF has on several occasions accused the organisations of backing MDC formations to effect regime change in the country.

 
“The police officers are either overzealous, can’t interpret Posa (Public Order and Security Act) or are influenced by political machinists,” said Machisa. “But the bottom line is that it is a strategy of intimidating and frustrating civil participation considering that we might go for an election soon.”

 
Zimbabwe is set to most probably hold national elections next year.

 
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) spokesperson, Thabani Nyoni concurred saying the move was an attempt to threaten venue providers and business people from accommodating organisations carrying out civic education.

 
He said most venue providers would not accommodate them fearing victimisation from the police and Zanu PF activists.

 
“It is a further assault on the freedoms of assembly and speech by the government through the police,” said Nyoni. “The police have been acting outside the law by trying to grant permission on the notification, now they are going a step ahead in requesting a consent letter. It is outrageous.”

 
Mashonaland West police spokesperson Inspector Mabgweazara, confirmed that the police would now require a letter of consent to avoid double bookings at venues. He said a lot of double bookings had occurred in the province causing administrative problems.

 
“Yes we now require a consent letter from the venue provider. We have had cases where members of different organisations claim to have all booked the same venues, thereby causing violence” said Mabgweazara.

 
Zanu PF and MDC-T have clashed in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East provinces over double-booking at venues.

 
Over the years, NGOs have provided much-needed relief in all sectors including governance and democracy, social and humanitarian services to citizens across the political divide.

 
The power wielded by NGOs is a constant toothache to President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF. With an impending referendum and possible general election, Zanu PF, as per its December 2011 Congress resolution, is bent on curtailing the operations of NGOs and ensuring that the next election is devoid of their involvement.

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