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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Zimbabwe urged not to cut foreign funding
    Business Day
    September 08, 2004,3523,1699781-6078-0,00.html

    HARARE - Representatives of rights groups, veterans' associations and students urged a parliamentary committee in Zimbabwe to scrap proposed legislation barring international rights groups and cutting foreign funding to local groups.

    The bill, which has yet to be presented to parliament, was condemned as "unconstitutional", "retrogressive", "satanic", "draconian" and "punitive."

    Lazarus Dokora, a lawmaker who heads the parliamentary committee examining the the draft law, said the bill was likely to be presented before the end of the year.

    Once it comes up and is debated, it is expected to be enacted into law as President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament.

    The head of a rights organisation called Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Brian Kagoro, said "the bill is totally in contradiction with government policies".

    "This bill does not comply with the constitution of Zimbabwe ... (and) goes beyond the dictates of human rights in that it seeks to criminalise criticism of government," said Kagoro.

    "The bill suggests that it is criminal to defend or to support human rights," he added.

    An elections advocacy group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said the timing of the bill, just months before crucial legislative elections in March, would adversely affect NGOs’ preparations for the polls and also flew in the face of the regional electoral reform charter which Zimbabwe assented to in August.

    Once signed into law, all NGOs would have to register afresh, a process they fear could take a long time.

    "The bill is actually an obstacle to full political participation of the electorate, in next March's polls," said ZESN.

    A representative of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an alliance of civic and political groups said the aim of the bill is to "stifle democracy and entrench dictatorship".

    "The consequences of the bill, if passed, will be too ghastly to contemplate," said Kuromba Munodawafa of the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform, a grouping of veterans of the country's war of independence.

    He said millions of people that benefit from NGO work will be deprived while the number of unemployed will swell as many of the organisations might be shut if their foreign aid is cut off.

    Emilia Muchawa of the Rural Information Project said rights groups would perish without foreign funding because "in Zimbabwe we don't have a culture of donating to NGOs".

    A students' representative, Pilane Zamchiya said the proposed law is "a satanic legislation whose place should be hell".

    "Really for us to adopt this bill would be suicidal," he said.

    The International Bar Association has also attacked the bill saying it is "in flagrant violation of international and regional human rights standards and norms".


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