19 February 2013

Zimbabwe: EU Eases Sanctions As Zim Police Raid ZESN

There is a reason why the decision by the European Union to ease its sanctions on some influential Zimbabweans was not met with universal approval. It is that many people do not believe that a leopard can change its spots - or to put it another way - that few people think that President Mugabe and his supporters are going to abandon the violence, intimidation and repression that have become key parts of their recent electoral campaigns.

And this viewpoint was backed up in no uncertain terms today. While Mugabe's spokesperson was claiming that the EU move - easing or removing sanctions on 27 individuals and a state diamond company - was "outrageous and preposterous" since it left the majority of restrictions in place, the police were raiding yet another civil society organisation on spurious grounds.

The latest CSO to be targeted in an on-going wave of raids and arrests was the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN). Armed with a search warrant, police entered the group's headquarters in Harare this morning to look for 'subversive material' - the catch-all phrase that they always use when they are to threaten and harass.

This official raid followed an earlier break-in at ZESN's offices in the town of Masvingo that has all the hallmarks of an 'unofficial' security sector raid. Unknown men - alleged to be members of the Central Intelligence Organisation - broke into the office this morning and stole a computer and t-shirts.

The security sector that answers solely to ZANU-PF is clearly in the midst of a campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing civil society organisations and preventing them from being able to work in the run-up to elections, which are tentatively scheduled for July.

In previous weeks, the police have cracked down on the Zimbabwe Peace Project, the National Youth Development Trust and Zim Rights. It is only a matter of days before the next organisation finds police banging threateningly on its door.

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