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Desist from partisan politics and de-urbanise – CSOs urged

BULAWAYO – Civil Society Organisations should desist from engaging in partisan politics and pursue the democratisation agenda that will benefit all Zimbabweans across the political divide, according to Sipho Theys, the National Coordinator of South African Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS).

Sipho Theys
Sipho Theys

Theys was speaking during a CSOs Roundtable organised by Bulawayo Agenda (BA) in partnership with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), as part of the 6th annual Ideas festival celebrations in Bulawayo where civil society also resolved to move more into rural areas where most Zimbabweans reside, beyond urban constituencies.

“It is very important that CSO’s do not become too close to political parties because if you do that you risk losing your independence and credibility,” Theys said.

“If we do not act as responsible citizens we will also lose the credibility of representing the voices of the poor and those marginalized.”

In response to this piece of advice, CSOs leaders present in the meeting noted that:

“… the umbilical cord between civil society and the MDCs is still largely intact. And, going forward, the starting point is to cut that umbilical cord. Civil Society needs to go back to basics and to their mandates. Civil society needs to be precisely that civil and not partisan.

“Elsewhere, most effective CSOs are issue-based and not spread out across the governance domains.”

Theys also encouraged local CSOs to seriously consider advocating for independent commissions, which will help protect the work of non-governmental organisations, and enhance constitutionalism.

“You should collectively lobby for independent gender, media, human rights and any other commissions that will promote constitutionalism,” he said.

CSOs also resolved to cure their obsession with “bright lights”, which in practice, means getting out of Harare, Bulawayo and other provincial centres, and be anchored in the people at the grassroots level.

The need for CSOs to constantly and consistently work together was emphasized throughout the conference which was attend-ed by representatives from across the country, while stressing the need for Civil Society to de-urbanise as it is presently more of an urban phenomenon. Crisis Coalition