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CSO's joint press statement on the purported ban of NGO's in Masvingo
Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations
February 16, 2012

We note with concern the blatantly illegal actions of Masvingo Provincial Governor, Titus Maluleke in purporting to ban some Non Governmental Organisations (NGO's) operating in Masvingo. On 14 February 2012, at a press conference convened in Masvingo, Governor Maluleke ordered the suspension of the activities of 29 NGOs for allegedly failing to register their operations with his office.

The Governor's actions were illegal and are a nullity at law.

The law in this country clearly shows that he has no regulatory authority; nor does he have the power to register or de-register NGOs. Even the Provincial Council that he heads in terms of the Provincial Councils and Administration Act does not have regulatory powers over NGOs. The council exists solely to foster developmental projects initiated and carried out by central government and local government.

In fact in terms of the law, the Governor's functions must be exercised through the process of consultation and suggestion with the various organs of government and not NGOs. As such he has no executive powers to suspend, disrupt or hinder the activities of NGO's and there is no legal obligation for an NGO to register with his office or any other Provincial Governor's Office.

The Governor's rash and ill-advised utterances merely seek to confuse matters and are regrettably likely to worsen the humanitarian crisis prevailing in the Masvingo Province. This is because the list of organisations he seeks to ban include NGOs that are currently providing food, medication and water and other social economic support to the community - something the state itself has failed to do due to its misplaced priorities.

The actions of the Governor are also irresponsible considering that the government and NGOs should be coming together to fight the Socio-Economic ills bedevilling Zimbabwe rather than him frustrating the efforts of individuals and organisations trying their best to help out fellow Zimbabweans.

Governor Maluleke has also violated section 21 (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which guarantees freedom of assembly and association, in that all the members and beneficiaries of the suspended NGOs are effectively being hindered from enjoying the benefits of such association and membership. Furthermore by illegally seeking to suspend the activities of NGOs, the Governor has violated their rights to freedom of movement as enshrined in Section 22 of the Constitution. Lastly, he as a public officer, has a duty to exercise his functions in accordance with the law and to observe and uphold the rule of law in terms of section 18 (1a) of the Constitution. Therefore he is also in violation of this provision as he acted illegally and beyond the scope of his authority.

We also note that there are reports that Governor Maluleke made the pronouncement suspending the NGOs flanked by security forces from both the Zimbabwe Republic Police as well as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. We wonder why this was so. We reiterate that the role of the security forces in terms of the constitution is to preserve security during times of war and, for the police, to maintain law and order in Zimbabwe. Their inclusion in the press conference is therefore curious and misplaced and it is difficult for us not to conclude that their presence was a strategy designed to cower and intimidate the NGOs.

This fresh onslaught on NGOs does not surprise anyone, as it was already hinted at by ZANU PF at its annual conference held in Bulawayo in December last year. NGOs have weathered such attacks before, and shall do so again.

In these circumstances, the affected NGOs should ignore the order by the Governor and continue to carry out their life saving interventions in this province and all others in the country.

Issued on behalf of:

Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition
National Association of Non Governmental Organisations
National Constitutional Assembly
Zimbabwe Election Support Network
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Zimbabwe Laywers for Human Rights

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