Scores of in independent civic, pro-democracy and rights groups said Tuesday they will boycott monitoring upcoming voting for a referendum on a new constitution unless the state election commission withdraws bans on activists that affect several key local organizations. The commission has so far refused to accredit as poll monitors the members of the Zimbabwe Association of Human Rights and says any groups under police investigation will also be barred access to the March 16 polling. At least four main groups have been raided by police searching for alleged subversive materials this year. None has been convicted of any wrongdoing.
The Crisis Coalition, with about 300 affiliate member groups, said Tuesday many will withdraw from “the observation process” if the election commission does not reverse its “ludicrous stance” by late Wednesday.
McDonald Lewanika, the Crisis Coalition director, said none of the activists affected have been pronounced guilty in competent courts of law and “for all intents and purposes, including accreditation to observe the referendum, they must be presumed innocent, until proven otherwise.”
He said the groups were under incessant harassment in recent weeks and Crisis Coalition groups will be asked to withdraw from observation of the referendum en masse if activists are “cavalierly barred from accreditation without lawful cause.”