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This article participates on the following special index pages:
NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
One Party State Effort: Zimbabwe’s Anticipated NGO legislation
Kagoro, Chairperson, Crisis in Zimbabwe
July 28, 2004
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"Some NGOs and churches
are causing too much confusion in the country because they are converting
their humanitarian programmes into politics" , Paul Mangwana, the
Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
Several issues have dominated
the Zimbabwean political conversation over the last two decades. These
range from the state ideology and one-party state debates of the 1980s;
the justifications of neo-liberalism in the late 1980s; the constitutional
debates of the 1990s to the land and democracy debates of the last decade.
Many of the debates and issues have centred on the person and office of
the presidency and recently the MDC. Zimbabwean political conversation
has placed an enormous premium on politics. Tragically our national politics
has largely enacted in moral or ethical vacuum. State politics has rampantly
replicated itself in the non-state sector as evidenced by instances of
misgovernance recorded in several CSOs.
Clearly, to begin with, political
domination has to be secured as a political victory. A political victory
initially has to be secured with public relations. A public relations
victory cannot be secured until it has been secured in and with a sense
of justice and justification. One does not need to agree with the Government
of Zimbabwe’s (Goz) arguments for the control of civic space and actors.
The argument for increased supervision and surveillance has great appeal
to those within the establishment and simplistic minds who presume good
faith on the part of government. Notably the arguments that are likely
to be forwarded for this intrusion on democracy are not rooted in power,
guns or pity, but some logic that has a pseudo-moral base.
Throughout Zimbabwe’s history
dictatorships have committed unrivalled evil in conjunction with a sense
of moral right. Authoritarianism often gains support for its actions by
justifying a supposedly moral position to the mass of the people often
at the expense of truth and integrity.
The land issue, food insecurity,
human rights violations and political violence have dominated national
conversation for the last decade. These issues have collectively defined
both domestic and international perspectives on the Zimbabwean question.
Resultantly the Zimbabwean question is perhaps the most verbalized and
yet misunderstood African political subject. It is not the intention of
this paper to unravel this complex question but rather to critically analyse
one core component of the Zimbabwean crisis, namely state-civil society
relations. This paper suggests that state-civil society relations are
a microcosm of a broader political crisis. In part, the analysis proffered
herein might also apply with equal force to civic-military relations for
Available data suggests that between
three to four million Zimbabweans will need food aid this year. At least
one-in-four Zimbabweans are HIV positive and the prevalence rate seems
constant if not on the increase. The country churns in excess of 350 000
high school leavers each year and these join the reserve army of the unemployed.
Current figures suggest that 75% of our nation is unemployed in an economy
that is likely to continue experiencing shrinkage.
The Reserve Bank’s new monetary
policy is unlikely - in the absence of other measures - to address the
broader structural crisis in Zimbabwe. There is urgent need to rationalize
fiscal and monetary policies. Many homesteads are unable to afford basic
foodstuffs such as bread, cooking oil, sugar, salt and maize meal. Their
menial wages are unable to keep pace with inflation and the skyrocketing
cost of living.
The enormity of the above challenges
has obscured crucial components of national conversation regarding the
specific role of civil society. In the fluid political situation prevailing
in Zimbabwe CSOs are expected to act as both a watchdog over the political
protagonists and as a safety net for the millions of Zimbabweans living
below the poverty datum line (PDL).
This discussion paper specifically
focuses on the pending NGO legislation and the opportunities and dangers
it poses. The writer trusts that this is a subject of equal interest to
development, governance, local, regional and international CSO leaders.
Indeed, as it should be to leaders of various social movements and common
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