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NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
lawyers slam NGOs Bill
Maponga, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
August 22, 2004
this article on The Standard website
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s
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
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,"
Mudehwe added that
NGOs would lobby parliamentarians to reject the bill, which totally closes
operational space particularly to those organisations involved in governance
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 government’s bankrupt departments.
He said this was very unlikely.
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