Human rights lawyers refute ZBC allegations of MDC sponsorship

zlhr_logThe director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Irene Petras, has dismissed claims by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) that her organisation was paid by the MDC-T to protest at the recent SADC Summit.

Several members of Zimbabwean civic organisations travelled to Namibia this month to lobby SADC leaders and to pressure them to lay out a clear plan for democratic change in Zimbabwe. However some of them were harassed and detained by Namibian security and Zimbabwean CIO officials, including Petras, Joy Mabenge of the Institue for Democratic Alternatives for Zimbabwe and freelance journalist Jealousy Mawarire. The trio were questioned and released after an hour, while others were held under heavy police guard.

A ZBC news report later claimed sources said that the civic organisations had been paid by the MDC-T to influence the thinking of SADC and delay the holding of elections. The MDC-T party is reported to have sponsored the so-called crisis coalition groups to Namibia, some who claim to be lawyers for human rights, who were arrested for gate crashing at the Extraordinary Summit in Windhoek, the news report stated.

The sources said just like in Namibia, the MDC-T plans to continue hiring thugs and the so-called civil society, in their desperate attempt to influence the thinking of SADC and delay the holding of elections under the existing GPA roadmap. The civil society organisations, which include Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have in the past been working closely with the MDC-T and in Namibia, the likes of Irene Petras and several MDC-T hooligans tried to disturb the summit but were eventually arrested by the Namibian police.

On Monday Petras rubbished ZBCs claims; These are just falsehoods and fantasies which weve come to expect from ZBC. When they dont have any news to tell the country, they decide to make up a story which they think will generate interest, she said.

She also attacked ZBCs bias. Every time theres information which certain parts of the state dont want to hear they start attacking civil society. Its not a very friendly environment for civil society organisations. Because there is control by one political party over the public media, they are able to do what they want with impunity, she stated.

ZBC has been widely criticised for continually churning out ZANU PF propaganda and deliberately tarnishing the MDC-T. The abuse of the public broadcaster and the governments reluctance to licence private broadcasters, are some of the problems blocking the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement.

Petras said despite the attacks, ZLHR will not be deterred from attending the next SADC meeting, pegged for June. ZLHR has always provided information about the political environment. And whether it is myself or somebody else who attends, weve got a right to be able to travel freely. Weve got a right as civil society to be able to put our concerns across and we have a right to present the information that we have to those who are going to be making decisions about our political future. ZLHR will continue with its work and we will not be threatened or intimidated, she said.

Post published in: Politics

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