NGOs threatened with closure by Mnangagwa government

Kazembe Kazembe

HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on Tuesday threatened to shut down critical non-governmental organisations (NGOs), accusing them of meddling in politics.

The government threats appear to have been provoked by NGO collaboration in compiling evidence for submission to a Commission of Inquiry into the post-election killing of civilians by the military on August 1.

The commission, chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, received oral, written and video evidence before compiling its report, which has been handed over to Mnangagwa.

The findings have not been made public, although Mnangagwa has promised to release the report.

Acting Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare Minister Kazembe Kazembe told a post-Cabinet news conference that the government will not hesitate to revoke the registration of NGOs who have diverged from their core mandate.

Declining to name specific organisations and quoting Section 10 of the Private Voluntary Organization Act, Kazembe said the government had received reports from across the country indicating that many NGOs have ceased to be apolitical.

“The government has noted with concern that some private voluntary organisations, NGOs, negate their objectives and are now meddling in politics. Should these organisations continue with this behaviour, the government would not hesitate to withdraw their registration certificates,” said Kazembe declared, reading from a prepared statement.

The threat to crack down on NGOs is in contrast to Mnangagwa’s pledge to respect fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and trade when he took over power in a military coup which deposed former president Robert Mugabe in November last year.

During the time, they accused Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, of having surrounded himself with “criminals” who were violating the ethos of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation which led to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

Last week, United States Senator Chris Coons told a Senate hearing on Zimbabwe by the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa that they wanted to see the widening of space for civil society.

“One of my concerns is that the civil society space that now exists be widened, not narrowed. If you read a transcript of our meeting with President Mnangagwa, if you read transcripts of his speeches and an editorial he wrote in the New York Times, he’s saying all the right things. Our challenge is the doing,” Senator Coons said.