By Auther Chimbgwa
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC) has distanced itself from what it said are “unfounded and misleading” claims by The Herald that some foreign embassies accredited to Zimbabwe were training civil society activists to engage in anti-government protests allegedly set for January.
The Herald on Thursday alleged that the United Kingdom, the United States and Sweden as well as teacher unions had lined up virtual and physical meetings with some civic society organisations that are aimed to instigate unconstitutional regime change.
It alleged that these organisations would use the internet and social media mobilisation in such political protests.
Briggs Bomba, the leader of Citizen Manifesto was cited as the convenor of the meeting together with Rashid Mahiya, chair of CiZC.
Also fingered in the alleged plot were George Makoni of the Centre for Development Trust, Wadzanai Mangoma of Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) together with political activists Promise Mkwananzi and Pride Mkono.
The other alleged attendees included Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure, some teachers and activists Ashley Pfunye, Stabile Dewa, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Charles Nyoni and Robson Chere.
Trainers were cited as Nils Weidmann, Editor of EU politics and Gerald Schneider who is the Professor of Political Science at the University of Konstanz in Germany.
Mutasa, former Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president, was accused of planning to convene another meeting with the Swedish Embassy all designed to prepare for the said protests.
But in a statement Thursday, CZC spokesperson, Marvellous Khumalo (pictured above) rubbished the claims, adding that the accusations were meant to clampdown on civil society actors, human rights defenders and ordinary Zimbabweans who continued to question the government’s “chequered human rights record and failure to deliver basic social services and economic development for the country’s citizens”.
“It has become apparent that the Government of Zimbabwe does not want to be held accountable by its citizens despite proclaiming to be a democratic government.
“The same modus operandi was used during the August 2018 and January 2019 persecutions which resulted in a spate of abductions, murder, torture and arrest of civil society actors,” Khumalo said.
He added that his organisation was concerned that President Mnangagwa continued to persecute civil society and human rights defenders based on unsubstantiated claims being made by the public media.
“It is unfortunate that the Government of Zimbabwe continues to use the state controlled media in creating false narratives that are meant to justify its continued promulgation and abuse of draconian laws to persecute civil society actors well as criminalization of civil society work,” Khumalo said.
“The level of unethical journalism with which The Herald article was authored is disquieting and highlight a hidden agenda to smear civil society actors.
“This points to a ploy to further shrink the democratic space ahead of the 2023 elections,” he added.
The former opposition legislator also said President Mnangagwa’s administration has failed to live up to its pledge of a New Dispensation and continued to perfect the art of persecuting dissenting as was witnessed during the days of the late Robert Mugabe.
“Zimbabwe has already begun a treacherous slide into a fully-fledged military dictatorship and as the CZC, we shall continue with local, regional as well as international engagements to seek the intervention of pro-democracy forces in stopping authoritarian entrenchment and moving towards the genuine resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis,” Khumalo said.
He said attempts at silencing civil society actors and other dissenting voices pointed to a move to create a one-party state in Zimbabwe which went against the dictates of democracy.
He further urged civil society actors to remain vigilant in light of the onslaught from the state media and the government.