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This article participates on the following special index pages:
NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations Targeted by Draft NGO Bill
from Civil Society Watch Action Alerts: Issue 229
August 25, 2004
Organizations have been operating within a challenging environment
for quite some time in Zimbabwe starting with the government claims
in early 2003 that organizations not registered under the Private
Organizations Act (PVO) were operating illegally, despite the fact
that they were all registered. President Robert Mugabe in his speech
when he officially opened the Fifth Session of the Fifth Parliament
of Zimbabwe on 20th July, 2004 stated the following about NGOs.
"Mr Speaker, non-governmental organizations 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. My Government will, during this session, introduce a Bill
repealing the Private Voluntary Organizations Act and replacing
it with a new law that will create a Non-Governmental Organizations
Council, whose thrust will be to ensure rationalization of the macro-management
of all NGOs."
What the President’s speech seems to imply is that the government
of Zimbabwe regards all NGOs as working against the country. No
mention is made of the enormous benefits that have accrued to the
ordinary people of Zimbabwe from the work of NGOs. The President’s
speech also implies that NGOs are perceived to be agents of foreign
interests that have been set up to interfere in government affairs.
This allegation has been used to limit democratic space for civil
society in Zimbabwe in the past with the advent of pieces of repressive
legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the
Access to Information and Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Media and
Broadcasting Act amongst others.
Civil Society Organisations in Zimbabwe fear that the Bill might
be used by government to further clamp down on democratic civic
space for Zimbabwean civil society. They are apprehensive that the
Draft Bill may be used to ensure that certain NGOs are not registered,
as well as to control and manage the operations of the NGOs that
register under the Draft Bill.
The Draft Bill comes in to replace the Private Voluntary Organizations
Act (PVO) passed in 1995. The main criticisms levelled against the
Draft Bill stem from its provisions. Section 9 of the Bill creates
personal criminal sanctions against board members of organisations
that are not registered, in their individual capacities. Section
10 of the Bill regulates the sources of funding for NGOs by requiring
them to disclose all foreign donations.
Section 17 of the Draft Bill is especially prohibitive as it provides
that "No local NGO shall receive any foreign funding or donation
to carry out activities involving or including issues of governance."
The Bill defines issues of governance in its Section 2 to include
the promotion and protection of human rights and political governance
Many CSOs in Zimbabwe would be deemed to be involved in governance
issues such as human rights defenders and organisations involved
in the political governance sphere if they are critical of government
The implication of this provision is that organisations that have
in the past acted as ‘watchdogs’ of the government, and as human
rights defenders will be denied any form of foreign funding. If
the Draft Bill is passed and becomes a law, the translation of this
within Zimbabwean civil society is that a lot of organisations may
be closed down.
The crucial role that civil society plays by providing ‘institutional
checks and balances’ will be compromised. Another criticism of the
Draft Bill is that it stipulates that if the state dissolves an
NGO for non-fulfilment of the provisions of the Bill, it is entitled
to seize the property of the concerned NGO according to Section
30. This provision then creates a loop-hole that is open to abuse
as the state could use it to target the properties of NGOs that
are deemed to be critical of it.
Organisations Draft Bill, 2004, click
publishes law to ban human rights groups, click
- ZIM NGO
BILL: Dangerous for Human Rights Defenders, click
Human Rights Organisations in Zimbabwe, click
One Party State Effort: Zimbabwe’s Anticipated NGO legislation,
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