Zim police raid election monitor's office
20 February 2013, 13:03
Harare - Zimbabwe police raided the offices of a leading
election monitoring group on Tuesday in the latest of what activists fear is a
deliberate move by authorities to harass them ahead of a referendum on the
Police forcibly entered the offices of the Zimbabwe Election
Support Network (ZESN) by breaking part of the perimeter wall and confiscated
documents, a human rights lawyer said.
No arrests were made.
"They had a search warrant to search for subversive material,
documents, gadgets, recordings and to look for illegal immigrants,"
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesman Kumbirai Mafunda told AFP.
Police have in recent weeks targeted non-governmental
organisations as the country readies for a crucial constitutional referendum on
Meantime a pro-democracy group opposed to the draft
constitution on Tuesday filed for an urgent court order to defer the referendum
to allow for more time to study the text.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) argued that the
general public were not involved in the drafting of the law, while their
contributions were not captured in the text.
"It is unfair that they should be given just about a
month to make up their minds," the NCA said in the court documents.
"It is therefore necessary that the people be given an
adequate opportunity to scrutinise the constitution in order to make informed
A new constitution is a key reform for new elections to
choose a successor to an uneasy power sharing government formed nearly four
years ago by long-ruling President Robert Mugabe and his nemesis Morgan
Tsvangirai, now prime minister.
Elections are due in July.
Meantime ZESN, a household name in Zimbabwean election
monitoring, has also been targeted in past elections. It has previously exposed
the shambolic state of electoral rolls which they claimed were stuffed with the
names of people who were long dead and children below voting age.
A week ago, detectives ransacked the offices of a civic
group called the Zimbabwe Peace Project and seized documents and CDs.
At the weekend police also detained three rights activists
in the farming town of Chegutu west of the capital on charges of holding an
unsanctioned meeting to discuss the constitution.
The new charter is designed to pave the way for new
elections in July, which are set to end the power-sharing government between
Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
With the referendum just weeks away, political tensions are
building up and activists increasingly targeted.
Activist group the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the
raids appear "to be a calculated state sponsored move to inculcate fear in
CSOs doing election related" work.
Authorities have in the past threatened to revoke licences
for groups deemed to be opposed to Mugabe's policies.
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party has urged
the police to stop harassing rights activists and party supporters.