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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Bingu stops NGO prayers
    Pilirani Semu-Banda, Nation-Online
    October 18, 2004

    Interdenominational prayers which a group of NGOs organised in Blantyre last Saturday to seek divine intervention against an amended NGO Bill in Zimbabwe failed to take place following President Bingu wa Mutharikaís last minute decision which led to police barring entry to the BAT ground scheduled, venue of the prayers.

    Mutharika is meeting 10 NGO leaders this morning to ask them not to hold any prayers or demonstrations for fear of destabilising Malawiís relations with Zimbabwe.

    One of the organisers of the prayers Rafiq Hajat said he was summoned to the office of the Commissioner of Police (South) together with another organiser Emmie Chanika where they were told to cancel the prayers until they meet the President.

    "But while we were locked up in the meeting which lasted for 90 minutes, a group of police officers were deployed to the BAT ground to stop the prayers," said Hajat. He said although the police convened a meeting with the NGO leaders, they had already decided to stop the meeting. "It was already a forgone conclusion and not negotiable and the meeting was a cynical ruse to keep the main organisers occupied while their support systems were being quietly dismantled in the background," said Hajat. He said Malawi is still a police state which is "under polite democratic camouflage".

    Human Rights Consultative Committee (CHRR) national coordinator Rodgers Newa confirmed that 10 NGO leaders will meet Mutharika at 10AM Monday. Newa said the people who wanted to hold the prayers in Blantyre might have lost patience because an earlier demonstration against the Zimbabwe issue had been postponed after the President indicated that he was interested in the matter but that he could not meet them then as he was going to the United Nations General Assembly in the USA. "We didnít hear anything until Sunday at around 11AM .

    Other NGOs were losing patience and they wanted to go on with the prayers," he said Sunday. Police spokesman Willie Mwaluka refused to comment on the matter, saying he wanted to find out what happened from the "people on the ground".

    The amended NGO law in Zimbabwe is reported to be aimed at impinging on freedom of association by stopping NGOs from getting funding from international bodies.

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