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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • NGO Bill 2004 - A Bill that kills when Zimbabwe needs life
    National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in Zimbabwe (NANGO)
    August 13, 2004

    The National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), representing over 100 NGO's in Zimbabwe, is seriously concerned by the draft NGO Bill that is expected to be tabled in Parliament soon. The bill undermines the principles of cooperation, collaboration and participatory development, which is the threshold of progressive development the world over.

    Zimbabwe is a signatory to various United Nations Charters, the African Union and various SADC protocols, where it confirmed its willingness to conform to the principles of accountability, good governance and above all to facilitate the development of the citizens, which is the focus of the Millennium Development Goals.

    The NGO community by virtue of its work collaborates with the Government at various levels. It is at the backdrop of this relationship where NANGO and its membership feel let down by the Government, especially where the Bill is undermining the basic principles of a conducive NGO operating environment namely:

    • Self-regulation
    • Efficient registration system
    • Sustainability of NGOs
    • Professional environment
    • Representation

    The Bill itself further compromises the relationship, which had been developed between the government and the NGO sector with NANGO playing a facilitatory role.

    Relations between NGOs and Government
    It was the intention and hope of the Zimbabwean NGOs that the NGO Bill would help promote a spirit of cooperation between the Government, NGOs and donors for the public good. Unfortunately, the Bill is actually undermining these intentions and as NANGO we fill let down by our government in our efforts.

    Transitional Mechanisms
    The NGO proposal to the government had provided for a transitional period to allow NGOs that are already in existence some time to register. This proposal had been made to endure that the current work of NGOs is not disrupted. However the Bill seeks to shut down all existing NGOs, which are currently not registered in terms of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act, until such a time that they would have become registered in terms of the new law. As NANGO we believe that there shall be huge losses of jobs, household incomes, services to communities in a wide range of areas and not to mention income tax loss to our country.

    Representation of NGOs on the NGO Council
    The draft Bill proposes to have a 15 member NGO Council as the regulatory authority. Ten of these shall be representatives of government ministries and only 5 shall be representatives of NGOs identified by the Minister. We believe that the small number of NGO representatives undermines the participation of NGOs in a body that is supposed to be an NGO Council. An NGO Council is ordinarily expected to have the majority of councillors coming from the NGOs representatives undermines the participation of NGOs in a body that is supposed to be an NGO Council. An NGO Council is ordinarily expected to have the majority of councillors coming from the NGOs themselves. In essence what is being called an NGO Council is actually a Government Board. 

    Furthermore the nomination of these councillors from NGO organisations/associations does not guarantee that NGOs can get people who can best represent them to sit on the council.

    Banning of Foreign funding for Human Rights work
    We fear that restrictions being imposed on the foreign funding for human rights work is going to cut the bulk of funding to the NGO sector, in a situation where there is no alternative local funding. NGO Global discourse on development has now espoused a rights based approach to development work. This is in terms of social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights. We believe that this provision is going to lead to a shut down of the NGO sector in Zimbabwe as there is no local funding; neither does the bill make any provision for the creation of a local fundraising base.

    Criminalisation of NGOs work
    We are concerned with the provision that seeks to criminalize NGOs that are currently operating lawfully but not yet registered as Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act due to frustrations created by the protracted registration process of the current PVO Act. These are the likes of Community Based Organisations, hundreds of AIDS service organisations and Trusts. According to the draft Bill any un-registered organisation in existence at the time this Bill is passed into law should cease operations.

    Having noted the above, as NANGO we believe that enactment of such a Bill will do Zimbabwe more harm than good. It is our conviction as NGOs that given the current socio-economic situation in the country where 70-80% of the population is surviving below the poverty datum line and unemployment is hovering between 60-80%; where over one million children are orphans and where 25% of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS; the NGO sector is a safety net and hope that is providing social safety nets to a lot of communities throughout the country. The Bill is hitting on the ordinary men, women, and children who are beneficiaries of the services of NGO interventions.

    We therefore call on all concerned SADC members to take note of the implications of this bill in terms of illegal cross border trading; economic refugees; increased prostitution thereby spreading HIV and AIDS. We fear that the regional migrations may create administrative, economic and security challenges to our neighbouring countries.

    We further implore SADC member states and civic society to fully support the NANGO drive towards a more conducive NGO operating environment in Zimbabwe

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