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NGOs slam moves to introduce tighter controls
July 19, 2004
JOHANNESBURG - Civil
rights groups in Zimbabwe on Monday slammed moves to introduce a new bill
that will give the government greater control over the operations of NGOs
The Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Churches Bill is expected
to be tabled in the coming parliamentary session.
"Some NGOs and churches are causing confusion in the country because they
are converting their humanitarian programmes into politics," Public Service,
Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Paul Mangwana, told the Zimbabwe Independent
"The government cannot allow that to happen, so we are saying they should
come under scrutiny, where we revise all the modalities of their operations
in the country. [Failing] that, we are going to simply close all the doors
and not allow them in this country any more, because the bill will set
out a code of conduct which they will be expected to stick to," he was
quoted as saying.
According to Brian Kagoro, chief executive of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition,
a group of pro-democracy NGOs, the proposed law will make it illegal for
hundreds of human rights groups and community organisations to continue
to operate as trusts, answerable only to boards of trustees and members.
"The bill is part of a total strategy to close the last crevices of democratic
opinion. This is an assault on NGOs under the guise of protecting national
sovereignty. All these additional constraints will make it nearly impossible
for NGOs to operate in Zimbabwe," he told IRIN.
Over the past three years NGOs have come under increasing fire, with the
authorities accusing them of promoting foreign interests and supporting
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
In September 2002 the government ordered NGOs to register under the Private
Voluntary Organisations Act, a law that was lambasted by rights activists.
General secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Densen Mafinyani,
commented: "There are many NGOs in Zimbabwe who have concentrated their
efforts solely within the humanitarian field. However, there are some
NGOs who have gone and mixed humanitarian work with politics - it is because
of this that the government reacts in such a harsh manner."
Mafinyani said it was still unclear how the proposed law would affect
the operations of church organisations in Zimbabwe.
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