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Crisis Coalition condemns state crackdown on CSOs

August 24, 2023, Harare

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition strongly condemns the police raid at the office and election centre of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) in Harare on August 23, 2023.

A police crack team raided the ZESN offices at around 10pm and arrested an estimated 40 personnel from ZESN and the Election Resource Centre (ERC) who remain detained incommunicado. The heavily armed police crack team also confiscated all computers and other materials related to elections. ZESN is a registered organisation which was accredited to observe and monitor the August 23 elections in Zimbabwe.

The arrest of the ZESN and ERC officials is part of a deliberate ploy by the state to target civil society organisations and ultimately silence their voice on the 2023 elections which has apparently failed to meet the credibility test.

It is very sad that the Government of Zimbabwe through its shadowy outfit, the Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ) has opted to completely ignore the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as well as the Zimbabwean Constitution to promote and protect the civil society space.

This mass arrest of the ZESN and ERC observers coupled with many other electoral malpractices puts a huge dent on the credibility of this election.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition implores the state to respect the Constitution and allow citizens to exercise their Constitutionally guaranteed rights to vote, associate and speak without any threat. This night-raid and detention of peaceful civil society actors makes Zimbabwe an outpost of tyranny.

The state must desist from dictatorial tendencies and respect the pivotal role of civil society organisations in ensuring credible polls.

We wish to also remind the Zanu PF government that the right to vote is sacrosanct, not least because it is enshrined in our Constitution, but that it is a virtue of the liberation struggle. To organise a sham election in which ordinary Zimbabweans fail to freely express themselves directly equates to reversing the gains of the liberation struggle.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition calls for the unconditional release of the ZESN and ERC officials. We further call upon the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to firmly move in to assist Zimbabwe to dialogue towards comprehensively dealing with these structural defects of the state which constantly produce sham elections and a frozen citizenry.

The reform agenda of the Inclusive Government of 2009-2013 was missed, leading to the coup of 2017 and the sham elections of 2018 and 2023.

Zimbabwe needs regional help.

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