THE European Union says the local civil society’s voice on policy formulation and economic issues is “weak” and is failing to shape the nation’s developmental agenda.
Speaking to members of the civil society and the media at a discussion titled EU-Zimbabwe Civil Society relations, What Went Wrong?, which was organized by MISA-Zimbabwe’s Harare advocacy committee at the Quill club, Thursday, night, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme, said the civil society was not pushing for policy review .
“The voice of civil society organizations is weak,” said Ambassador Van Damme.
He added, “Of course people speak out on notably on human rights issues, but on developmental issues, and on policy issues your voice is hardly heard.”
Ambassador Van Damme said the local media dwelt more on political party squabbles at the expense of real issues which affect the ordinary person.
“I do not see much of the debate in the media on policy issues, but I see a lot of debate on factionalism and speculative politics but on developmental issue such as how to address health issues and the sustainable development goals, I hardly see people putting substantial contributions,” said Van Damme.
In response, civil society representatives said they were operating under stifling conditions. They mentioned the continued existence of undemocratic laws such as the Public Order and Security Act which the state uses to ban public gatherings organized by pro-democracy organizations.
They also said the continued closure of the broadcasting sector to genuine private players was also stifling their voice.
Since 2000, the government has crafted controversial laws most of which have been blamed for the slump in foreign direct investment.
One of such laws is the economic empowerment policy which government enacted in 2007.
According to the law which continues to cause discord even in government with cabinet ministers interpreting it differently, local must have the majority stake in foreign business ventures.