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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • NANGO, lawyers slam NGOs Bill
    Valentine Maponga, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
    August 22, 2004

    View this article on The Standard website

    PRESIDENT Robert Mugabeís increasingly paranoid government totally ignored contributions from the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) community in the drafting of the repressive NGO bill that was gazetted on Friday, The Standard has established.

    The Bill, which will repeal the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act to establish the NGO Act, bars organisations from receiving foreign funding or donations to carry out activities involving governance issues and also provides for the establishment of a new State-controlled council that will regulate the conduct of the organisations.

    The council, to be called the Non Governmental Organisations Council will consider and determine every application for registration, proposed cancellation of NGOs and amendments of certificates for registration.

    If the bill becomes law, the NGO council "may at anytime cancel any certificate of registration on the grounds that the organisation has ceased to operate bona fide in furtherance of the objects for which it is registered."

    Analysts say the council will follow the footsteps of the Media and Information Commission which has ordered the closure of newspapers such as the The Daily News, The Daily News on Sunday and The Tribune in Zimbabwe.

    Gugulethu Moyo, Media Relations Adviser on Southern African Issues for the International Bar Association, said it was starkly obvious that this statute was not designed to create an "enabling environment", in which civil society can flourish in Zimbabwe.

    "It would appear that the Zimbabwean government has been emboldened by the effectivesness of similar, draconian legislation such as AIPPA and POSA in shackling the free will of Zimbabweans.

    "Much like AIPPA did in the media sector, this legislation grants boundless power to functionaries of the State to determine which NGOs will continue to operate in Zimbabwe and on what terms," said Moyo, the former Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) company lawyer.

    The government claims the Bill follows concerns that some NGOs, most of which survive on foreign financial donations, were funding opposition activities to effect regime change in the country.

    The director of National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), Jonah Mudehwe, said the final bill was "totally the opposite" of what they had been proposing to government since 2002.

    The NGOs had proposed a self-regulating bill to monitor their own activities through an independent council.

    "Itís actually the complete opposite of what we proposed to the government and a complete disregard of the NGOs input. As it is right now, the bill is going to provide serious hardships to most, if not all, NGOs in this country," he said.

    Mudehwe added that NGOs would lobby parliamentarians to reject the bill, which totally closes operational space particularly to those organisations involved in governance issues.

    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director, Arnold Tsunga, said some of the definitions in the bill generalise issues making it very difficult for them to operate.

    "The whole bill should be reworded so that we can accept it. The issue of registration of NGOs is very serious, apart from that they can be asked to close at any given time.

    "There are so many communities that are benefiting from NGOs and if they are closed just like that, a number people are going to suffer," said Tsunga, who is of the opinion the bill has generated panic in the whole NGO sector.

    Brian Kagoro of the Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe said the government believes if they close ranks on NGOs, donor funds would be directed to governmentís bankrupt departments. He said this was very unlikely.

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