Takunda Maodza News Editor
A number of foreign individuals and non-governmental organisations have been outed in their efforts to destabilise the country, following a workshop they held in Mutare this week which discussed how to participate in violent demonstrations.
The Herald is reliably informed that the workshop trained attendees on how to gather information when there are disturbances, how to package the information, how to interview people and what to say before commission of inquiries in the event of them being appointed to investigate political disturbances.
The worskhop, which strategised and mobilised for demonstrations, was attended by some foreigners who entered the country disguised as tourists.
“The meeting was chaired by Transparency, Responsiveness, Accountability and Citizen Engagement (TRACE) field manager Mary Anne Cook, an Australian national,” said a source.
A source said Cook claimed to be a businesswoman.
TRACE says it is a five-year (2014- 2019) programme that aims to enhance State accountability and preserve democratic space, building on the new Constitution.
Other foreigners who attended the meeting and are part of the coordination team include Professor Brian Burdekin and Caroline Trigg.
Prof Burdekin entered the country as a visitor.
He is a Visiting Professor at the the Raoul Wallenberg Institute and teaches in the post-graduate programme at Melbourne University Law School.
He is international advisor to a number of national human rights institutions in Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.
From 1995 to 2003, he was special advisor on national institutions to the first three United Nations High Commissioners for Human Rights.
Prior to taking up his appointment with the United Nations, Prof Burdekin was, from 1986 to 1994, the Federal Human Rights Commissioner of Australia.
In 1995, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to human rights, both in Australia and in other countries.
The source on the Mutare workshop added: “Present on the first day of the workshop were former Special Advisor to the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Geneva, Switzerland, Professor Brian Burdekin and TRACE provincial field officer Caroline Trigg.
“Representatives from various CSOs such as the Legal Resource Foundation (LRF), United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT), Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Peace Building and Capacity Development Fund (PACDEF), Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) attended the meetings that were held at a hotel in Mutare.”
UMRRT spokesperson Mr Umrat Dube yesterday confirmed the meeting, but claimed it was about birth certificates.
“The meeting I know was held in Mutare,” he said. “It was a three-day meeting. It had nothing to do with democracy, but discussed findings to access to documentation survey. It was to do with birth certificates, like causes of failure by some people to access birth certificates.”
Mr Dube confirmed Cook, Prof Burdekin, Trigg and the mentioned NGOs attended the meetings.
“Cook works here in Zimbabwe for TRACE,” he said. “Burdekin is an Australian who worked for the Human Rights Commission in Australia. His input was to basically try to capacitate people on how to engage the commission (Human Rights Commission) with your findings.
“Trigg works in Zimbabwe. She is a researcher while (Prof) Burdekin is not resident in Zimbabwe.”
When asked to explain in what capacity UMRRT attended the workshop considering it has nothing to do with birth certificates, Mr Dube said they were a community organisation and “it is easy for us to engage the community to find out which children do not have birth certificates. It informs the development aspect”.
The Catholic Church yesterday professed ignorance over the Mutare meeting, even though Mr Dube confirmed the CCJP’s attendance.
“No, I am not aware of that kind of meeting,” said the church spokesperson Father Frederick Chiromba. “I am surprised. When CCJP attends national meetings, I usually authorise from here (Harare). If it is a diocese, say Mutare, it will fall under their diocese and I would not know.”
Violent demonstrations that rocked the country last month were organised by the MDC-Alliance and its allies in the NGO sector.
The violence was preceded by a series of meetings organised by the Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe from December 3-7 to incite disturbances.
Foreigners were again cited by Government as having played a crucial role from coordination to funding of the meetings, which were aimed at instituting an illegal regime change in Zimbabwe or alternatively to cause chaos that would force President Mnangagwa’s Government to the negotiating table with the MDC Alliance.
The violence left a trail of destruction, with the demonstrators torching police stations and shops, while looting goods worth millions of dollars.