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Zimbabwean Security Budget 3 Times Higher than Healthcare Spending - 2004-04-21

The Zimbabwe government has stepped up its intelligence operations, according to human rights workers, trade unionists, and journalists. The 2004 national budget has tripled funds for the Central Intelligence Organization.

The figures show spending on security in Zimbabwe has skyrocketed. The budgets for intelligence and internal defense operations, as well as an unallocated fund that bypasses parliamentary scrutiny, have swollen to more than $300 million.

This number is more than three times what Zimbabwe spends on health care.

Almost every aspect of life in Zimbabwe is increasingly being monitored. Recently, a visiting journalist found himself under scrutiny when he arrived to cover an international cricket match.

Others who the Zimbabwe government says are its enemies are reporting an upsurge in monitoring of their day-to-day activities.

Brian Kagoro, co-chairman of a political pressure group called the Crisis Coalition, says there has been what he described as a phenomenal increase in public spending on home affairs, defense and security.

He says Zimbabweans now live in what he calls invisible prison cells, and have to be careful what they say and to whom they say it.

Mr. Kagoro says the increase in intelligence monitoring is deeper and more sustained than anyone believed possible. He says this includes intelligence-gathering on activities of some leaders in the ruling ZANU PF party, as the party's internal power struggle intensifies over who will eventually replace President Robert Mugabe, who is 80 years old.

Jim Holland, systems administrator for Mango, Zimbabwe's oldest internet service provider, says only one such company, which has its own satellite access, can be sure that e-mail is not subject to intelligence surveillance.

There are also more traditional types of security enforcement.

Most opposition members of parliament, candidates, and councilors in rural and municipal areas have been arrested at one time or another since the main opposition party was formed in September of 1999.

In one recent incident, an opposition member of parliament, Evelyn Masaiti, and a Harare city councilor and 13 soccer fans were arrested last weekend at a game celebrating the 24th anniversary of independence in an impoverished township east of Harare.

Police told them to disperse from the township, an opposition stronghold, because too many people had gathered to watch the game. The state accuses them of looting a shop.

Some intelligence operatives are easy to spot, and will admit their profession, if asked. They can often be seen in hotels, cafes and sports clubs, keeping watch on people in the area.

Zimbabwe's academics, lawyers, trade unionists, and particularly journalists say that the monitoring of their daily lives has recently increased to unprecedented levels.