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Looming NGO lay-offs threat to economy
Foster Dongozi, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
October 31, 2004

15 000 people stand to lose their jobs ZIMBABWE'S economy is expected to experience another meltdown if the Non Governmental Organisations Bill becomes law, officials working with NGOs have said.

Jacob Mafume, the co-ordinator of the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations'(NANGO) team working on a response to the Bill, said the full impact of the law was still being assessed.

"We are still finalising the full economic and social impact that the bill will have on Zimbabweans but a conservative estimate is that if each of the 3 000 NGOs is employing five people, then 15 000 people will lose their jobs."

Mafume said based on the assumption that each of the affected employees had a family of six members; tens of thousands of people would be thrown into poverty.

Mafume added: "With the devastating effect of HIV/Aids, many dependants will be left stranded."

This comes amid reports that some NGOs were preparing to relocate to other countries within the region such as Botswana while those remaining were moving their bank accounts to other countries in a bid to evade the prying eyes of the government.

NANGO executive director, Jonah Mudehwe, said: "In its current form, the bill targets all NGOs because it says no NGO will receive foreign funding for governance and human rights issues and that means even an NGO working with children cannot advocate for children's rights. It also means the disabled cannot receive foreign funding to lobby for disability rights which are also human rights."

Economist, Rongai Chizema warned that in its current state, the Bill was potentially disastrous for the Zimbabwean society.

"The potential impact, with a multiplier effect, will be felt by almost all sectors and levels of society," Chizema said.

He pointed out that the macro-economic, tourism; rural development and health sectors would be negatively affected.

Since the drop in tourist arrivals, which started four years ago, 60 percent of hotel business in Zimbabwe is conferences and workshops-driven. The majority of them are held by NGOs.

Chizema said rural development was also expected to receive a knock, further increasing rural poverty while in addition; the little foreign currency that was finding its way into the country through NGOs was expected to dry up.

The collapsed health sector especially in the fight against HIV and Aids was also under threat as most of the work was being undertaken by NGOs, he said.

The government says the measures are designed to introduce accountability and to shut down NGOs it believes are too vocal - an argument which analysts say does not hold water.

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