Less than six months from the Zimbabwean elections, a text of law, which must be ratified by President Mnangagwa, plans to prohibit NGOs from talking about politics. A way to repress any dispute?
There are only a few months left before the general elections in Zimbabwe. Next July, voters will notably vote for their president. The Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front), the presidential party, intends to keep power. Emmerson Mnangagwa is a candidate for his own succession and intends to return after the summer for a new term.
Even if it means relying on a tailor-made legislative arsenal? In any case, this is what the United Nations fears. Clément Voule, rapporteur for freedom of association at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, believes that the Zimbabwean government is currently trying to muzzle NGOs thanks to texts in the process of being adopted.
Indeed, on February 1st, the Zimbabwean Senate passed a law which officially aims to “fight against terrorism and money laundering”. But Clément Voule sees in it a desire to silence the NGOs. Because the text also plans to sanction non-governmental organizations that engage in politics.
A wording vague enough to worry. "An organization that defends a person who has been arrested, tortured, but who is a member of a political party, this organization could be seen as doing political work" explains the rapporteur of the United Nations High Commissioner to human rights.
The end of criticism against the government?
The timing questions the UN. Because the elections are approaching and we could link the ratification of this text to a desire of the president in place to muzzle part of the opposition. “We know very well, we see the past elections, that they are generally elections which are very violent and which are also imbued with repression”, continues the rapporteur.
For the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, it is indeed important to ask whether NGOs will not henceforth be prohibited from denouncing acts of repression committed during a campaign or in ballot.
There is now an important step left: after the Senate, it is President Emmerson Mnangagwa's turn to ratify this law. What the United Nations asks the Head of State not to do, “because it gives a sign, a bad sign. The law, as it stands now, with the regime it imposes, the restrictions, the provisions, is only intended to muzzle all criticism and also to muzzle all persons who would be tempted to criticize any action of the government in the approach of the elections.