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Aku Harriet

MASVINGO – Non-governmental organisations operating in Masvingo province, southern Zimbabwe, have threatened to suspend operations, following a surprise government move to ban an NGO operating in the area claiming it was not registered.

The move could further plunge thousands of desperate household into the mire, as even those NGOs involved in providing humanitarian aid threatened to join the protest action.

The government last week wielded the axe on Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development, claiming the state was investigating the NGO’s registration status. Other NGOs reacted angrily, threatening to suspend all their operation in solidarity with COTRAD.

A senior member of the National Association of Non-governmental organizations, Nango southern region, who refused to be named for fear of victimization, said an emergency meeting was held over the weekend, where it was resolved that all NGOs, including those giving humanitarian aid, would suspend operations until the situation was reversed.

“We are moving in solidarity with one of the NGOs which was banned. We are going to suspend operations until the situation is reversed,” said the Nango member without giving any time frame for the action.

“Our aim is for all NGOs, particularly those working in Masvingo, to be allowed to operate without any form of interference.”

COTRAD, an NGO that has been operating in Masvingo for years, was last week banned from operating by Masvingo district administrator Ray Hove, who cited among other reasons, that the organization was not registered.

In a letter to the NGO, an official from Masvingo district administrator Ray Hove’s office only identified as Tongofa, said the organization should stop operating while government was investigating its registration status.

COTRAD official, Brighton Ramusi, disputed the allegation his organization was not registered, threatening court action to have the ban lifted.

“We are a registered organization which has been operating for years, hence we are a going to fight in the courts to have the ban lifted,” said Ramusi.

The NGO specializes in social justice and has been instrumental in organising meetings for victims of political violence.

The move to suspend operation would adversely affect thousands of suffering Zimbabweans who survive on humanitarian assistance. In scenes reminiscent to the run up to the 2008 elections when the then Masvingo provincial governor Titus Maluleke banned 29 NGOs from operating, Hove descended on COTRAD and ordered it to immediately cease its operations.

The move has been condemned by several human rights groups in the country, who accused the government of harassing and intimidating human rights defenders and civil society organizations.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa accuses the country’s civic organizations of being sponsored by the western countries to topple him from power.

Mnangagwa – who has fumbled like his predecessor and former boss Robert Mugabe, accuses NGOs of abandoning their core businesses to engage in politics with the aim of removing him from power.

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