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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Proposed legislation won’t affect churches — Secretary
    The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe)
    July 25, 2004

    The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, which will soon be tabled before Parliament for debate, seeks to govern the operations of NGOs only and will not affect churches, a senior Government official has said.

    The announcement follows the misconception that the proposed legislation would give Government powers to strictly monitor the operations of churches.

    Church leaders had raised concern that the proposed law would infringe on their right to worship, further arguing that they would be better off regulating themselves.

    The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Cde Lancester Museka, told The Sunday Mail yesterday that churches were not subject to the Bill since they were meant for worship, adding that the Government had never presided over the religious bodies.

    Cde Museka said only a few churches had been registered under the Social Welfare Department in order for them to be able to collect funds for charity.

    He pointed out that it was due to this fact that many people mistakenly thought that the Bill would incorporate churches.

    "Churches will not be included in the Bill — they will be left out of it.

    "We have never governed churches before and this is not the purpose of the proposed legislation either.

    "It was a misconception from the beginning to suggest that the Bill would also incorporate church organisations.

    "The Bill, however, seeks to govern the operations of NGOs that carry out activities in the country. The business of NGOs is to support Government activities throughout the country," said Cde Museka.

    Government recently announced its intention to introduce the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill to regularise the operations of NGOs after allegations were made that the organisations were engaging in politics.

    If passed into law, the Bill would give the State powers to screen NGOs wishing to operate in the country and those already operating.

    Officially opening the Fifth Session of the Fifth Parliament of Zimbabwe last week, President Mugabe said the Bill would be introduced during the session to repeal the Private Voluntary Organisations Act.

    He also said the Bill provides for the enactment of a new law under which a Non-Governmental Organisations Council would be constituted.

    The council’s thrust will be to ensure rationalisation of the macro-management of all NGOs, he said.

    "Non-governmental organisations must work for the betterment of our country and not against it. We cannot allow them to be conduits or instruments of foreign interference in our national affairs," said Cde Mugabe.

    Cde Museka reiterated that it was important for NGOs to be registered with the ministry to enable the authorities to monitor whether the organisations were operating within their mandates.

    It is also understood that NGOs are supposed to be registered for them to be accountable for public and donor funds.

    Cde Museka highlighted that the organisations that had responded to an earlier Government directive to be registered in terms of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act had so far submitted satisfactory financial reports.

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