Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Zimbabwe

Interference with freedom of association and harassment against the Amani Trust60

In August 2002, Dr. Frances Lovemore was arrested and charged with "publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State". She was released two days later and the charges dropped for lack of evidence. Dr. Lovemore is medical director of the NGO Amani Trust, which helps the victims of torture and denounces human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

On 13th September 2002, the Ministry for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare published a notice ordering NGOs to register under the terms of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act (PVO Act) and to cease operating until their situation was in order. Also in application of the PVO Act, which was passed in 1967 but had never really been enforced, the notice stated that organisations failing to comply would be closed down and that their members could be arrested.

On 13th November 2002, in answer to a question in Parliament, Minister for Public Service Cde July Moyo stated that Amani Trust was among the NGOs that had been required to cease operating until they had registered under the PVO Act. The same day in Parliament, Justice Minister Cde P. Chinamasa issued a list of NGOs representing a threat to national security, particularly as they are funded from abroad, mainly from Britain. The Amani Trust was on the list, as was the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. These declarations were published in a front page article in the pro-government newspaper The Herald on 14th November. The article fiercely criticised the Amani Trust, thus intensifying the smear campaign against the organisation.

In October, the same newspaper had published declarations by Cde Robert Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, accusing NGOs of interference in national affairs and of setting themselves up as "little governments". He said that a bill currently before Parliament would enable the government to close the loopholes in policy governing NGOs, and added in threatening tones that the authorities would soon be putting them in their place. The Herald also mentioned that a Code of Ethics was being drafted on the initiative of the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations, particularly designed to prevent NGOs interfering in local politics.


[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

60. See open letter to the authorities 22 November 2002.

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