By Audience Mutema
THE MDC has scorned government threats Tuesday to ban Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) caught dabbling in national politics.
Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume described the threats as “totalitarian, draconian, fascist and unacceptable in a democratic society”.
Acting Public Service Minister Kazembe Kazembe Tuesday issued a chilling threat to deregister some unmentioned NGOs which he said were acting outside their mandate and were now encroaching in politics.
But Mafume felt the threats were attempts to stampede party MPs and councillors from attending functions hosted by different NGOs.
“We are aware that the idea behind the statement is to closeout space for MDC MPs and councillors who have been invited to take part in the CSO activities,” said the MDC spokesperson.
“We view this new prescription of rights specifically freedom of association.”
Mafume said Zimbabwean laws did not forbid NGOs from taking part in any political activities adding that they were created to watch over political matters.
“The law does not prohibit NGO’s from politics,” Mafume said.
“CSOs are only expected to be non-partisan and the minister misses the simple difference.
“As a matter of fact, when the organisations registered as trusts, they state their objective of participation in governance issues. These organisations are therefore watchdogs of political processes.”
Mafume also said government threats were an attempt to manipulate processes for its own benefit.
“A desperate regime goes all out to manipulate processes and institutions for purposes of self-preservation.
“A conflated government will also attempt to use its powers to serve a party agenda,” he said.
It is however not the first time that the Zanu PF led government has found itself in some form of conflict with NGOs.
Then under former President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean NGOs were in 2007 deregistered and asked to reapply after they were accused of aligning themselves with the opposition MDC.
In 2012, then Masvingo governor Titus Maluleke indefinitely suspended 29 NGOs that were operating in the province accusing them of deviating from their mandate to engage in politics.
The punitive decision left thousands of beneficiaries without services which were provided by suspended NGOs.