Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations met Monday in an attempt to resolve a corrosive disagreement over strategy with respect to the government of President Robert Mugabe, which is proposing to create a human rights commission.
NGOs have been trading insults in the media over the decision by some organizations in civil society to cooperate with Harare in setting up the rights commission. Critics say the government has shown scant respect for human rights and that cooperating in the establishment of such a commission is merely playing into Harare's hand.
The National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and NANGO members like the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, the Women’s Coalition and the National Society for the Care of the Handicapped favor engaging the government.
The National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, among others, oppose cooperation.
NANGO spokesman Fambai Ngirande said his organization’s board intends to consult with members the issue - but he acknowledged NANGO is under pressure to pull out of discussions with the government. The board is expected to announce its decision soon on whether it will continue working or break off talks with the government.
The United Nations Development Program, the lead U.N. agency in the country, has also come under fire for encouraging NGOs to engage with the government.
National Constitutional Assembly spokesman Ernest Mudzengi said his group refuses to consider talking with the government about a commission on human rights so long as there continue to be what the NCA regards as government rights violations.