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NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
holds public meeting on proposed NGO laws
Thornycroft, Voice of America
September 07, 2004
has conducted rare public hearings to debate proposed laws to control
non-governmental organizations. The proposed legislation would prevent
all human rights organizations from receiving foreign funding and
will only allow NGO's to operate if they have successfully registered
with the government.
More than 500
people from scores of non-governmental organizations attended this
unusual event to speak their minds about the legislation that will
affect their lives and their livelihoods. They all said they they
only survive because of foreign funding.
parliamentary committee held the meeting, but made no contribution
to the stream of criticism against the proposed law that came from
students, church leaders, lawyers, the disabled, and many other
Outside of the
deliberations, human rights activists and those who monitor governance
issues say that they know that they are the cause of the new legislation.
is the director of the Zimbabwean non-governmental organization,
Lawyers for Human Rights. "This bill is targeted at a few organizations,
especially those that are seen as effective in influencing public
opinion on the human rights violations and atrocities that the state
has been responsible for. And it is targeted at those organizations
the government feels [it] can influence, especially grassroots opinion,
and create a real danger for change in government," he says. "It
will have a chilling effect on everyone, so a few organizations
will be closed, but then all other organizations will be rendered
ineffective in terms of promoting human rights, so people will be
targeting their efforts to areas they think are safe."
Mr. Tsunga and
others in the civil rights movement in Zimbabwe say the government
has several reasons for wanting to hold public hearings before the
proposed laws go to parliament next month. "It was trying to create
an impression that they are concerned about the opinion of the NGOs
themselves, but they also want to test the water, the degree of
resistance that is being offered in order for the government to
strategize further," he says. "The other reason is to create a perception
of participation so that by the time they pass the bill in its present
format, they can say, 'We consulted widely and that that process
of extensive consultation is the one that resulted in the bill coming
Mr. Tsunga said
the government is likely to make, what he describes as, cosmetic
changes to the draft laws, to define more clearly those organizations
it wishes to ban by including the word political in its definitions
of human rights issues.
due to hold parliamentary elections next March, a time when civil
rights activists are busiest. The government says the new laws are
necessary because many foreign-funded NGOs engage in political work
to promote opposition groups.
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