An Assessment of CSOs Operating Environment in Zimbabwe Post-November 2017

Introduction and Background

The unprecedented events of 15 November 2017, which saw the military taking over government during Operation Restore Legacy an the eventual deposing of long-term ruler Robert Mugabe ushered in what has been termed the ‘New Dispensation.’ After many years of despondency under the Mugabe regime, there was a moment of euphoria and relief as it now appeared possible for the country to finally turn around for the better. The new administration, led by new president Emmerson Mnangagwa immediately made important pronouncements about the imperative to take the country forward and restore its lost fortunes.

Within three months of the ushering in of the new dispensation, however, questions began to arise regarding whether real transformation would ever come to the country at all, as the promised ‘changes’ appeared to be taking too long and ordinary citizens failed to reconcile the 100-days promises with what was obtaining on the ground. On January the 19th 2018, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare issued a notice, by way of an advertisement in a local state-controlled newspaper (The Herald), calling on private voluntary organisations (PVOs) to submit their 2017 returns. The notice also advised organisations described as “operating outside the law” to regularise their operations by approaching the nearest Social Welfare Offices to register as PVOs. To many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country, this notice was a chilling reminder of the uneasy space they have long occupied as they have operated and supported various aspects of development in the country.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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