21 February 2013

Zimbabwe: NGO Sucked Into Espionage Case

ZIMBABWE Peace Project led by Jestina Mukoko has been fingered in a suspected espionage case after police confiscated documents and communication devices it was distributing to its recruits countrywide. Police found the unregistered organisation with communication gadgetry that includes Eton Microlink radios and Huawei Ascend Y100 cellphones fitted with Geographical Positioning System (GPS) reportedly to be used in the run-up to the elections and the actual poll.

Under the secret project, political parties are identified with codes.

Zanu-PF's code is 3, MDC-T 8, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn 7, Zapu 10, Zapu Federal 19, MDC-N 2, MDC Mutambara 5, MDC 99 23, Mthwakazi 14, Puma 13 and non-political parties, MKS 211.

It is believed the data collected would be forwarded to NGOs and Western governments who would in turn use it to discredit the next elections if won by President Mugabe.

The recruits use a personalised and encrypted password, Tendai, and the test run was actually going on in urban and rural areas.

The systems make it easy to communicate, undetected by security forces, quick information like a secret meeting or gathering, through the password, Tendai.

For example, "Tendai meeting at Africa Unity Square, 12 noon, 3."

That could mean go and monitor a Zanu-PF meeting at Africa Unity Square.

Police yesterday said they were now investigating the organisation.

According to police, a recent search at ZPP's offices at Number 17425 Flanagan Drive in Hillside, Harare, resulted in the recovery of subversive material, documents and communication gadgets.

These are suspected to have been imported illegally, with the help of hostile Western donor organisations and NGOs.

Some of the gadgets include Eton Microlink radios, event forms, Huawei Ascend Y100 cellphones and floppy diskettes containing hate speech.

Police believe that some registered NGOs were also behind the distribution of the gadgets in rural areas.

ZPP is led by Ms Mukoko, who was once arrested a few years ago for being involved in activities deemed to be detrimental to the State.

She was freed by the Supreme Court on the basis of some constitutional breaches.

Chief police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba told journalists that ZPP was unregistered and its activities were a threat to State security.

"ZRP has it on good authority that certain entities like the Zimbabwe Peace Project purport to be engaged in humanitarian work as an NGO whereas they are an illegal conduit to the regime change agenda by carrying out covert political activities tantamount to causing a threat to State security and violating the country's laws," she said.

Asst Comm Charamba said investigations carried out after the searches at the ZPP offices revealed that the organisation was employing dirty tactics by deploying "field monitors" to various rural areas.

Once in such areas, the monitors ask desperate youths to fill in the event forms to allege harassment, intimidation, assault, threats by the Central Intelligence Organisation, police, war veterans, army and militia.

Asst Comm Charamba said ZPP had come up with codes for political parties, incidents, violations and denials which they fill in on the event forms.

She said the codes would be filled in on the forms instead of writing the names of the political parties.

The forms would also contain a summary of what was happening at any political gathering of any party.

ZPP mostly targeted Zanu-PF, with most of the information filled on the forms having been found to be false, police said.

"Surprisingly, no such political incidents as described in the event forms would have taken place," said Asst Comm Charamba.

"The information being coded is highly sensitive and prejudicial to State security and is intended for their handlers who are outside the country.

"Further to that, Zimbabwe Peace Project is operating illegally as a non-governmental organisation and is not even registered under the Private and Voluntary Organisations Act."

Asst Comm Charamba urged people in both rural and urban areas to be wary of strangers who masquerade as NGOs and entice them with money to divulge negative and false information about the country.

She said such cases should be reported to the police.

"We have a constitutional obligation as a police force to maintain law and order and our raids are not an onslaught on civil society, but we act on information to unearth criminal activities," she said.

Asst Comm Charamba said certain NGOs were accusing the police of being partisan and selectively applying the law when they were the ones abandoning their humanitarian mandate to engage in political activities to the detriment of State security and the country's stability.

"The ZRP promises to remain fair and firm in the discharge of our duties and protecting the interests of law and order at all cost," she said.

Police recently confiscated the communication devices which they said were being distributed by non-governmental organisations countrywide with the aid of some political parties.

Although police could not give figures, sources said hundreds of such devices, including specially designed radios, have been confiscated, especially in the rural areas.

It is illegal for anyone to possess or operate signal transmission equipment other than in accordance with a licence issued by either the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe or Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

Police investigations have also revealed that there were groups of between 40 and 50 people who were gathering at night in various parts of the country for political activities.

President Mugabe recently said voting in the referendum on the draft Constitution would be conducted over one day on March 16, with polling stations opening at 7am and closing at 7pm.

The proclamation by President Mugabe was contained in the Government Gazette which validated the referendum date through Statutory Instrument 19 of 2013.

The referendum would pave way for the much awaited harmonised elections which would end the inclusive Government established in 2009.

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