Bulawayo — Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) have hit out at Matabeleland North governor, Thokozile Mathuthu for allegedly claiming they were a "security threat" during a meeting with senior security officials.
Mathuthu, who refused to speak to The Standard last week, met senior state security officials from the army, police, prison and the President's Office on Thursday in Lupane.
The officials were touring provinces as part of their one-year strategic training course on national security. They had also visited Manicaland, Masvingo and Bulawayo.
The delegation that met Mathuthu comprised brigadier-generals, air commodores and their equivalent in ranks in the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zimbabwe Prisons Services (ZPS) and the Presidents' Office.
Mathuthu reportedly told security officials that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) compromised national security.
In separate interviews on Thursday, NGOs blasted Mathuthu for the alleged comments.
They noted that it was Mathuthu who was compromising their security since her statements denied them protection from the police and exposed them to physical attacks by Zanu PF militias.
Thabani Nyoni, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson and Bulawayo Agenda director weighed in saying "Whenever Zanu PF and the state are preparing to delegitimise the civic society, they start by making such statements.
"Already, the crackdown has started and we have seen CSOs being persecuted by prosecution. We are now seeing CSOs being asked to explain how we conduct our activities and why we talk about elections and the referendum."
Abel Chikomo, the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said Mathuthu was threatening NGOs because her party [Zanu PF] did not want a free and fair election.
"Zanu PF is worried about NGOs as we approach the referendum and elections. They know that NGOs are vigilant during this period by monitoring and recording all the abuses that they do against the people of Zimbabwe," Chikomo said.
He added: "We must remember that when Zanu PF talks about national security, they will not be talking about security of Zimbabwe but their own security. They want to remain in power by whatever means necessary and anyone who questions their agenda is viewed as a security threat.
"Zanu [PF] is anaemic to accountability and so anyone who calls for accountability such as the NGOs is an enemy of the state. The danger is that it creates an impression that NGOs are unlawful and do not deserve the protection of the law."