President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zimbabwe African National Union has, in recent days, embarked on a warpath against civil society organizations.
President Robert Mugabe: Africa’s strongman
Ordinary citizens with political views that favor the opposition political party, Movement for Democratic Change, have also not escaped the wrath of the state.
Mugabe’s government accuses civil society organizations of both working in cahoots with the MDC and being funded by Western countries.
In Zimbabwe today, the venom of the state machinery, including the military, the police and the state-owned media, is being unleashed against anyone perceived to be connected to the opposition, which won the parliamentary elections in March — a first in Zimbabwe since it attained independence from British rule in 1980.
Since 1980, ZANU-PF has won all the parliamentary and presidential elections by any means possible — fair, foul or murderous.
Incumbent President Mugabe, who narrowly lost to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai 43.2 percent to 47.9 percent in the March election, blames Western forces (as he has glibly done for the past eight years) for his loss of popularity.
Ahead of a runoff election scheduled for June 27, Mugabe has invoked all the state machinery’s hell against his people, and is determined to win by any means necessary.
Throughout the country, opposition supporters have been abducted and discovered with limbs, private parts, ears and tongues chopped off in scenes reminiscent of ritual killings.
“It’s a desperate situation,” said Keith Mazonde, a Harare-based nongovernmental organization worker in a Skype interview, “But the old man [Mugabe] is going nowhere.”
“I think he will win, but if you get me right, it’s a different kind from the win we know,” added Mazonde.
The clampdown of civil society organizations by Mugabe’s government comes in the wake of an order barring humanitarian aid organizations from distributing food and agricultural aid to impoverished Zimbabweans.
Mugabe has accused humanitarian aid organizations of using food handouts to campaign in favor of the opposition. NGOs have been ordered to re-apply for operating licenses.
According to Zimbabwe’s National Association of Nongovernmental Organizations, HIV patients will likely die as a result of the ban on food aid because they rely on NGOs for home-based care and antiretroviral medical assistance.
“The country has become a bedlam for people seeking an honest means of living. It looks like it will get better if only Mugabe goes, and a government of national unity is the way forward,” said Obert Sherera, an NGO worker.
UNICEF estimates that a total of 185,000 children are likely to miss the essential support they need, including healthcare and nutrition, and labels the government ban against NGOs a “human rights violation.”
“One day it will all come to an end but for now people are living in fear,” said Nornia Dumare, a political activist in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city.
Already, political analysts are saying that under the current circumstances it will be impossible for Zimbabwe to hold a free and fair presidential election.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Zimbabwean government’s campaign of violence and intimidation against the opposition MDC has extinguished any chance of a free and fair presidential runoff on June 27.
The report titled “‘Bullets for Each of You’: State-Sponsored Violence Since Zimbabwe’s March 29 Elections,” said that 36 politically motivated deaths and 2,000 victims of violence have been recorded in the run-up to the June runoff election.
“Since the runoff was announced the violence in Zimbabwe has gotten even worse,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Zimbabweans can’t vote freely if they fear their vote may get them killed.”