Zaka youths blame authorities for shrinking the operating space

Zaka-Youths here have blamed the local Rural District Council for enforcing repressive laws which prohibit community volunteers from conducting development work. The disgruntled youths said the drastic decision made by the council to enforce villagers to obtain police clearance and council approval for community development activities was unrealistic.

Expressing their grave concerns during a community dialogue meeting conducted by Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) at Jerera Training grounds last week, the youths described the council’s repressive measures as undemocratic and unconstitutional.

COTRAD Action for Accountability Group (AAG) Team Leader for Ward 19, Zaka Central Constituency, Florence Nyamunda, said the process to get police clearance and council approval was long, winding and unfair. “As COTRAD Action for Accountability Group, we organised a clean up campaign programme in Jerera Growth Point and we engaged Zaka RDC and the Ministry of Social Services for assistance. However, Ministry of Social Services officer Mrs. Mudhugu turned down our request and demanded police Clarence and the District Administrator’s approval for the scheduled programme”, said Nyamunda. The youths said Mrs. Mudhugu insisted that villagers were not allowed to conduct such activities without police clearance and council approval. One villager Mrs. Lafios Huruva of ward 19, Zaka Central Constituency, described the ruling as detrimental to community development. “We wonder  why the  council has enforced  restrictive laws to  people who are willing to  do voluntary work in the community,” said Mr. Huruva.

COTRAD AAGs revealed that the operating environment is now shrinking and surveillance of rural communities in Zaka District is now common and is necessitated by the situation that we are approaching the election time. COTRAD will continue to advocate for peace, opening up of space and conducive operating environment for the organic groups and civic society in Masvingo. COTRAD encourages the rural district council to ensure representation and management of the affairs of people in rural areas as enshrined in section 275 of the constitution.

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