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the noose: Narrowing the democratic space for NGOs in Zimbabwe
Noria Mashumba & Chris Maroleng
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The Zimbabwean government will shortly promulgate new legislation
intended to monitor and regulate the operations of non-governmental
organisations in that country. Some analysts see the proposed legislation
as a tactic to further marginalise, and eventually purge altogether,
NGOs and civic organisations that are likely to threaten the political
hegemony of the ruling party, particularly before the crucial 2005
parliamentary election. It is anticipated that this Bill will primarily
target civic movements involved in the field of democracy, good
governance and human rights. Should the legislation be passed, it
will certainly threaten the survival of NGOs and place independent
human rights activists at risk.
legislation already in effect, such as the Public Order and Security
Act (POSA) and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
restrict the effective functioning of civil society organisations,
the proposed NGO Bill will provide the government with broad powers,
which will allow it to, in certain circumstances, halt the operations
of NGOs altogether. This will be achieved in a number of ways, including
burdensome registration procedures and tight control on access to
foreign funds, as well as contacts with international organisations.
While the Bill
purports to "provide an enabling environment for the operations,
monitoring, and regulation of all non-governmental organizations,"
it will in effect place NGOs under effective government control,
undermining their independence. President Mugabe, in his opening
address to Parliament, gave some indication of the reasons behind
the proposed Bill by saying said that NGOs needed to be controlled
because they interfered in politics, and that ‘we cannot allow them
(NGOs) to be conduits or instruments of foreign interference in
our national affairs.1
for Human Rights argues that this new law is motivated by a number
of factors, including a desire by government to restrict democratic
space, reduce scrutiny of its human rights record and further limit
enjoyment of universally recognised rights and fundamental freedoms
by the people of Zimbabwe. In addition, the organization considers
that the proposed bill will in effect create a ‘black out’ of regional
and international news on Zimbabwe reinforcing an uneven playing
field in matters of political governance and thereby maintain the
to tighten security screws", Business Day, 21 July 2004.
Tsunga and Tafadzwa Mugabe, Zimbabwe NGO Bill: Dangerous For human
rights defenders, ZLHR, 2004
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