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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • NGO Bill: ZLP calls for dialogue
    Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP)
    August 27, 2004

    Government has now gazetted the controversial Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Bill.

    According to government, the Bill seeks to "repeal the Private Voluntary Organisation Act and establish a new non-governmental organisation Act which will provide for an enabling environment for the operations, monitoring and regulation of all non-governmental organisations".

    National debate is raging in the media on the pros and cons of the Bill. Government on the one hand is trying to justify its motive for coming up with the Bill. On the other hand, NGOs are raising genuine concerns which will impinge on their normal operations and activities.

    NGOís concern include:-

    • Composition of the NGO Council. There are more representatives from government than from NGOs.
    • Banning of foreign funding for local NGOs involved in governance issues.
    • Definition and scope of "governance".
    • Increased government control and surveillance.
    • Stringent registration conditions.

    Genuine national debate in the media and elsewhere on a Bill before it comes to Parliament is always a welcome development if the objective is to get input from the public. The ideal result is an improved Bill which takes the expectations and concerns of all stakeholders on board in order to avoid amendments soon after enactment.

    In the case of the NGO Bill, over and above the public debate, the two contending parties (government and the NGOs) need to engage each other. Dialogue normally reduces tension and potential conflict. It leads to compromise whereby both sides win and the nation benefits. Most conflicts and wars since time immemorial have ended at negotiating tables where compromises have been reached. Lancaster House talks in 1979, which culminated in an independence settlement, are a good example.

    Therefore, ZLP is making a passionate appeal to government and NGOs represented by NANGO to start genuine and honest dialogue on the NGO Bill with a view to addressing each otherís concerns and reaching a compromise.

    The work of civic society organisations complements governmentís efforts in providing goods and services to the population, especially the poor and vulnerable groups. NGOs have before and after independence assisted millions of people who were detained, affected by epidemics, droughts and floods as well as whose breadwinners were incarcerated. They have built such infrastructure as schools and clinics, educated many people and campaigned against human rights abuses by the Smith regime.

    NGO activities involve all forms of national development, provision of food, medicine, care for orphans, sick and aged, civic education to empower the people with information, spiritual healing, human rights awareness, economic and cultural empowerment, governance issues etc. As such, NGOs are governmentís partners in national development.

    Where there are deviants and saboteurs, effective ways of dealing with them should be found by both NGOs and government, hence the NGO proposals that there should be:-

    • A code of conduct for NGOs.
    • Professionalism among themselves.
    • Self-regulation like in such professions as health, law etc.
    • Sustainability etc.

    With co-operation and regular consultation, government and civic society can and will flush out deviants when discovered.

    The definition and scope of governance is as broad as to encompass virtually everything all civic society organisations are engaged in.

    The liberation struggle was guided by principles and sacred values which included justice, peace, respect for human rights, sovereignty, independence, political tolerance, freedom of expression, of association and of assembly, equality before the law, non-discrimination etc. The ZANU (PF) government is a product of the war of liberation and the liberation movements defined those principles and values which should guide the nation today. The leaders of the liberation struggle (who included the late Dr. Zvobgo) were visionaries who did a sterling job of defining values, guiding the fighters and directing the war effort towards independence and sovereignty.

    Therefore government has a moral obligation to deal with the regulation of NGOs in a fair, just, transparent and principled way. The millions of Zimbabweans who survive on and/or benefit from NGO work look to government and their Members of Parliament for hope and a bright future. As people who derive their mandate from their constituents, MPs should consult widely before passing the Bill.

    ZLPís call for dialogue cannot be over-emphasized.

    Visit the ZLP fact sheet

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