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Who controls them?
E.W. Rogers, S.J.
October 24, 2002
If your bank insisted that every cheque needed to be cleared
by their Chief Executive, how much business would they do?
A bank would
not make any rule that made their operations that clumsy and slow,
but governments and other big organisations are often not so sensible.
They need, just as the banks do, to define a series of different
levels at which decisions of varying levels of importance are made.
People who like inventing new words are coming to call this idea
the Principle of Subsidiarity.
As far as it
affects government, subsidiarity can be defined by saying: GOVERNMENT
SHOULD PERFORM ONLY THOSE ACTIONS AND PROGRAMMES THAT THE PEOPLE
ARE UNABLE TO DO FOR THEMSELVES
This means that
only national issues are the business of the state and all local
activities should be left to other organisations in the country.
National defence, health, education, taxation are some of the areas
for which the state is responsible. Subsidiarity is the principle
on which local government works, but it should also apply to other
areas of activity which local government itself is either unable
to perform, or because of its bureaucratic structure, cannot perform
effectively with and for the people.
a long standing tradition of active Non-Government Organisations
(N.G.O.'s) ranging from Jairos Jiri, to Shelter Trust, Child Protection
Society, Help Age and very many other N.G.O's and over one hundred
that have sprung up in the last seven years to help in the situation
of HIV/AIDS. Earlier than this, of course, the various churches
founded schools and hospitals countrywide for the local people and
most of these are still operating. These hospitals provide the major
part of medical services in the rural areas under Zimbabwe Church
Related Hospitals (ZACH). Though not strictly speaking N.G.O's,
these hospitals and their extension medical services are to a large
part voluntary inputs to help the needs of the people. Church missions
have spawned a large number of N.G.O's to help people in various
areas of needs, such as agricultural development, savings clubs,
and self-help projects for youth and women.
now feel threatened by a recent government announcement (Sept. 13th)
on registration, making it a criminal offence if they do not register.
Sometimes the registration may take about one year and if they are
to "cease operations immediately" what will happen during that year
to all the people they are serving?
most N.G.O's obtain considerable funds from donors outside the country
as they cannot raise sufficient for their needs here in Zimbabwe.
Similarly, government is obtaining massive food assistance from
outside donors at the present time. In any case the donor funds
the N.G.O's receive add to the limited amount of foreign currency
available in Zimbabwe and so benefit government as well as the people.
always used to grant donations directly to the governments of developing
countries, but, in recent years, they have begun to make some donations
directly to N.G.O's as they have found that some governments either
misuse the funds or too much of the funds is taken up in bureaucracy.
They note that often the N.G.O's, being closer to the people, can
make more effective use of smaller sums of money than governments
complaining that N.G.O's are assisting the opposition parties. If
this is so, only a few N.G.O's are guilty. Government should distinguish
between such N.G.O's and the majority which are only concerned with
people. They do not need to bring in strict laws to regulate every
one. The Welfare Organisations Act has been in force for many years
to guard against illicit donations and ensure that N.G.O's present
audited accounts yearly to the Registrar. N.G.O's are also required
to present their Constitutions to the Registrar for approval and
are required to follow them. This is sufficient and makes it possible
to de-register or prosecute those organisations violating the Act.
Welfare Organisations should stick to their brief and not get involved
in party politics as they were not founded for that. The organisations
concerned with human rights may be considered a difficult case.
Their concern should be criticising violations of human rights whether
by government or by an opposition. This was the brief of the Catholic
Church's Justice and Peace Commission during the Smith government
period when they published reports on atrocities. Our President,
Robert G Mugabe, praised this Catholic Commission for its stand
when he was present at one of its meetings in the early 80's. He
thanked them for the work they had done in publishing injustices
committed by the Smith regime and said "that we expect you to criticise
us, too, if we go wrong". This the human rights groups do today,
as it is their brief. They should not favour one political party
against another but treat all equally.
During the Smith
regime, Christian Care had a large programme to help political prisoners
and their families, many of whom are now leaders in Zimbabwe. Christian
Care funds were raised from outside the country, from Britain and
European countries mostly, as they could not obtain funds for such
work inside the country. Christian Care, though being funded from
outside, was and is an indigenous Church organisation and the same
applies to most of the involved N.G.O's at present working in Zimbabwe.
There are, however,
a few which have come from outside and these should be reminded
of the requirements to be impartial, if they are not so already.
It is interesting
to learn that the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations
(NANGO) is working out a code of ethics for N.G.O's which it hopes
to implement soon. Government
should welcome the work of N.G.O's who have done much to help develop
the country and be prepared to work with them, rather than legislate
further in any way which may restrict their work with people in
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