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This article participates on the following special index pages:
NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
to Thabo Mbeki on the NGO Bill
Britain Zimbabwe Society (BZS)
October 13, 2004
Mr Thabo Mvuyelwa
Mbeki President of the Republic of South Africa
Private Bag X1000
October 13 2004
We write on behalf of the Britain Zimbabwe Society. The BZS was founded
in 1981 in order to represent the interests of the people of Zimbabwe
rather than any particular party or regime. In particular it has no affiliation
either with the Zimbabwean or the British Governments, or with any Zimbabwean
political movement or party. The Society circulates accurate information
about Zimbabwe and encourages research. It promotes understanding and
friendship between the peoples of the two countries, encouraging twinning
between Zimbabwean schools and cities and British schools and cities.
It works with Zimbabweans in Britain, many of whom are members. It has
raised funds for Zimbabwean NGOs concerned with rural water supplies,
the rehabilitation of street children, the education of Aids orphans etc.
It has also been supportive of state institutions such as the University
of Zimbabwe, the National Galleries and the National Archives.
The Society has not
previously made representations about Zimbabwean domestic legislation.
But we write to you now to express deep unhappiness about the NGO Bill
currently before the parliament of Zimbabwe. This Bill affects all the
concerns and activities of the Society.
Our commitment is
to the interests of the people of Zimbabwe. We welcome the SADC undertaking
to ensure democratic participation by citizens of the region. But the
NGO Bill and the limits it proposes on civil society runs counter to the
principle set out in the African Union's Constitutive Act and the SADC
Guidelines concerning the role of citizens in political life.
The definition of
NGOs proposed in the Bill is far too wide. Human Rights groups are its
main targets but organisations ranging from medical partnerships to pension
funds will have to register under this Bill. So too will charities which
we support and which deal with grassroots emergencies. The bill bans any
external support for human rights and governance activities and it is
unclear how widely such activities will be defined. We fear that the ban
will affect our own support for Zimbabweans in general and for Zimbabwean
NGOs in particular, for twinning programmes, etc.
Moreover, in seeking
to provide accurate information about Zimbabwe we have drawn not only
on material provided by the Zimbabwean government or the state press,
but also upon the regular reports of human rights organisations. (The
evidence offered in these reports has recently been confirmed by the report
of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights). Under the provisions
of the Bill it will become impossible for anyone to achieve a balanced
picture of what is happening in Zimbabwe.
We are disturbed also
that the Bill effectively makes Zimbabweans living in Britain into foreigners
and restricts their capacity to contribute to voluntary work in their
own country. Our experience of these Zimbabweans is that they are very
much concerned to devise ways of developing Zimbabwe's economic, social
and political life. It is short-sighted as well as undemocratic to treat
them as aliens.
We ask you to use
your influence with the Zimbabwe Government to have this Bill withdrawn.
Terence Ranger, President
of the Britain Zimbabwe Society
Diana Jeater, Chair of the Britain Zimbabwe Society
100 Woodstock Road
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