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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • New NGO Legislation signals the dearth of rights based activism
    Fambai Ngirande, NANGO
    November 24, 2004

    Read the adverse report on the NGO Bill from the Parliamentary Legal Committee

    The new NGO Legislation follows after the media and electoral laws as another state instrument to further constrict the operating environment for civil society institutions. It is the final death knell for the existence of a free and vibrant Civil Society in Zimbabwe. The legislation is a lamentable event of macro-economic proportions, indicative of the state's determination to maintain a stranglehold on the political economy. Through the new NGO Legislation the state seeks to outlaw human rights, electoral and governance activism, absurdly considering such activism to be a security threat After the promulgation of this legislation it will be illegal for people to get organised in order to contest any infringements on their human (social, cultural, political, economic and civil) rights.

    As part of a diabolical election strategy the formulation of the Legislation negated the principles of consultation and participation, taking no cognisance of NGO demands for an equitable, transparent and democratic legislation. As a result the legislation far from creating an enabling framework for widespread and unrestrained participation in the socio-economic and political development of the nation, conversely takes away individual and group rights to engage in activities that promote development. By restricting Civil Society operations to a particular set of activities the government is essentially contravening the peoples Right to Development. Rights based programming, which pursues people's rights to shelter, food, treatment and such like, inform virtually all Civil Society activities. In this way all Civil Society Institutions are involved in human rights work and thus at risk of closure through the new legislation.

    The Legislation goes against the fact of the indivisibility of human rights and welfarist / humanitarian activities as an interrelated, interdependent complex. Contrary to the Legislation there cannot be a separation between civil and political rights on the one hand and social and economic rights on the other as both sets are definitive elements of human development. According to International Treaties different sets of rights should be treated equally and the state abrogates this principle by outlawing activities by its citizens to advocate for their civil and political rights. This is in spite of the country's poor human rights and democratic record.

    In essence the legislation okays humanitarian and welfarist work presumably because it does not question the state's hegemony but outlaws activities aimed at promoting and protecting civil and political rights because they infringe on the political field which government seeks to maintain as its exclusive territory. There have been state media reports to the effect that NGO s cannot engage in political activities. In this way the state has labelled human rights, electoral and governance based activities as political and therefore outside Civil Society's mandate, thus compromising Civil Society's mandate to promote development. Beyond a doubt the new Legislation is inimical to the advancement of human development and must by all means be resisted.

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