Police have been criticized for intensifying their crackdown on civil society organizations, after the latest raid on the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) offices in Harare. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras, who is also vice chairperson of ZESN, said officers raided the offices on Tuesday looking for subversive material, documents, gadgets or recordings and illegal immigrants. Petras told SW Radio Africa that the police search warrant was the same as the one used to raid the offices of the Zimbabwe Peace Project recently. “The raids are carried out by the Law and Order unit of the police but we don’t know where the instructions are coming from. It’s quite confusing. One minute we hear from politicians that they have been discussing this, and that attacks on civil society organizations are going to cease, and the next minute there is a raid of another organization. So it seems the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Petras said.
Petras said the police are on a fishing expedition to gather information and intelligence to try and disrupt the work of key organisations as the country prepares for the referendum and elections.
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya was facilitating a Political Parties Finance Act review planning meeting at the ZESN offices when the police came to search the premises. He said it was ironic that ZANU PF had also sent its participants to this meeting.
A ZESN statement said police broke down a durawall panel and went on to search all offices, after which they took documents pertaining to ZESN’s projects and plans for observing the referendum. Earlier that same day the organisation’s Masvingo office had also been broken into at 2 am and boardroom chairs, one computer and 60 t-shirts were taken by unidentified assailants.