from SHELUZANI MAKHESE in Chiredzi
CHIREDZI, (CAJ News) -THE Zimbabwean government and nongovernmental organisations are headed for another collision course ahead of next year’s elections (2018) after accusations the NGOS were advocating for regime change.
The accusations have raised fear the administration of President Robert Mugabe could reopen a crackdown that led to the closure of some NGOs in previous polls.
Lovemore Chisema, the district administrator (DA) of Chiredzi area in the south-eastern Lowveld, claimed government would be left with no option but to ban NGOs in the region for allegedly operating in cahoots with opposition parties to garner support through food aid.
The impoverished region is experiencing severe drought.
Chisema questioned why aid was distributed without the involvement of local government departments.
Speaking to delegates attending an NGO forum in Chiredzi, some 400km south-east of Harare, Chisema demanded all NGOs operating in the district to forthwith involve the government or risk expulsion.
“We are preparing for elections and you must not be found on the wrong side of the law. Stick to the confines of your MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). You must be apolitical to remain relevant and acceptable,” Chisema warned.
“We don’t want a situation where NGO’s come from Harare, bypass the district office and go straight to the village. What will you be hiding? Why do you shun government departments if you are genuinely doing what is outlined in your MoU?” he questioned.
NGO officials dismissed the government official’s claims arguing they were directly dealing with communities owing to rampant corruption by government agents in the area.
Traditional leaders, seen as loyal to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, have a reputation of victimising opposition supporters by denying them food aid.
“The government has double standards. If we go through them, they claim the relief aid provided to hapless villagers is coming from President Mugabe and his wife Grace yet it is untrue,” said an NGO leader in Chigwedziva.
Another participant in Chilonga communal lands told CAJ News Chiredzi Bureau that the government must complement NGOs’ efforts instead of targeting them.
“Government must walk the talk instead of threatening NGOs who provide relief aid to drought areas, medicine to clinics without drugs and seed for subsistence farmers,” he said.
Zimbabwe is set to hold elections in 2018 on the back of severe economic hardships and worsening poverty.
Three international food aid organisations – Care International, Save the Children and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency- were banned in 2009 for allegedly boosting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T).
In 2012, the Zanu-PF government again banned Care International for alleged “politicking.”
The claims were denied.
– CAJ News