THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Zimbabwe announces new controls over charities, non-governmental organizations
International Herald Tribune
April 28, 2007

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe announced new controls Saturday to clamp down on charities and non-governmental organizations, including democracy and human rights groups, that the government accuses of campaigning against it.

Under a new code of procedure, voluntary organizations need a state license, which can be denied, thus barring them from operating.

The code, issued in an official government notice available Saturday, follows recent warnings from several senior officials against charities engaging in political advocacy, saying some groups came to Zimbabwe with food aid in one hand and what they called a "regime change agenda" in the other.

President Robert Mugabe has frequently accused Britain, the European Union and the United States of funding charities to work alongside his opponents in a Western-sponsored campaign to oust him.

According to the code, existing charities already registered by law with the government would not have their licenses automatically revoked by the notice, as had been feared. But their activities could be reviewed.

United Nations agencies are not affected. The code requires foreign organizations setting up in Zimbabwe to sign a memorandum of understanding with government departments working in their social or welfare fields and provide accounts of their funding and a clearance letter from the International Police Organization and other details on their history and background.

Human rights groups and pro-democracy pressure groups routinely assist victims of state-orchestrated political violence with food and shelter, medical assistance and trauma counseling.

The code would bring them under state control for the first time under existing charity laws, known as the Private Voluntary Organizations Act, analysts said.

The Lawyers for Human Rights group, who provide free legal aid to victims and help channel food and medicine to jailed opposition activists, would also likely be targeted.

Most of those organizations currently operate under regulations covering private trusts.

Under similar media licensing laws enforced since

2003, four independent newspapers, including the only independent daily, have been shut down, and scores of independent journalists have been arrested, intimidated and assaulted.Most foreign journalists are denied visas to travel to Zimbabwe on assignment under media and immigration laws.

Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, with acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline, medicines and most other basic goods. Official inflation is 2,200, the highest in the world.

Central bank governor Gideon Gono said Friday the government used scarce hard currency to buy 500,000 metric tons of staple food - mostly corn - to avert starvation in coming months.

Critics accuse the government itself of using food as a political weapon, especially surrounding elections, charges Mugabe denies.

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.