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NGOs Suspend Rural Operations

NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisations involved in humanitarian work have been forced to suspend operations in rural areas due to increased post-election violence.

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) spokesperson Fambai Ngirande said they were on high alert following reports last week of the deployment of the army to allegedly coordinate key functions in the rural areas.

“Humanitarian activity has come to a virtual standstill given the upscale in election-related violence in most rural areas,” Ngirande said.

He said the establishment of bases by war veterans and war collaborators in areas such as Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West had created a politically volatile environment which was not conducive for humanitarian organisations to carry out their work in line with international principles and standards.

Ngirande said the organisations also feared for the safety of their workers based in the rural areas.

“We fear for the security of personnel currently stationed in rural areas given the long held assumption by sections within Zanu PF that NGOs are proponents of the regime-change agenda,” Ngirande said. “We are particularly concerned with election observers who had been sent by Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network as they are the prime targets of election violence.”

He said civil society was in the process of establishing security and protection mechanisms which include access to legal and medical assistance for victims of the ongoing violence.

Ngirande said Nango and other civil society organisations had since embarked on a campaign to exert pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to immediately release the results of the March 29 presidential election.

The campaign also calls for the demilitarisation of communities to allow democracy to take its full course in Zimbabwe.

It involves mass-based non-violent social actions such as marches, peaceful protests, petitions and dialogue with relevant authorities.

The civil society organisations said they noted with great concern the absence of international election observer teams as the electorate anxiously awaits the presidential results and a possible presidential run-off.

They said they would continue to urge a more proactive United Nations intervention to avoid a possible humanitarian crisis emanating from the failure to resolve the challenges stemming from the elections.

By Lucia Makamure

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