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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Introduction of NGO Bill hailed
    The Herald
    September 08
    , 2004

    The majority of players in the non-governmental organisations sector yesterday welcomed the need to regulate operations of NGOs although they said the proposed law should be reviewed to help create a conducive atmosphere for their operations.

    The views of the NGO sector were made known yesterday during a public hearing in Harare on the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

    The proposed law will repeal the Private Voluntary Organisations Act and establish a new Act that will provide for an enabling environment for monitoring and regulating NGOs. It seeks, among other things, to bar local organisations from receiving any foreign funding or donation to carry out activities involving governance issues.

    Stakeholders were agreed that there was need for regulation since this was the practice the world over, but expressed concern over some of the clauses in the Bill, which needed to be improved.

    They were of the view that there should be equal representation in the proposed 15-member NGO Council.

    According to the Bill, the council would be composed of five representatives from NGOs, nine senior Government officials and the Registrar of NGOs who would be an ex-officio member.

    Among the duties of the council would be to register, conduct investigations into administration and activities of NGOs and following such investigations, hear representations from the organisations before taking appropriate disciplinary action.

    The stakeholders agreed that NGOs should select their own representatives to the council who would then be approved by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

    They were of the view that the term "governance" was too broad and there was need to define what constituted governance. The stakeholders also noted that the term "human rights" was too wide as this included issues of gender equality and fighting for the rights of the physically disabled.

    National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) chairperson Mr Jonah Mudehwe said the proposed legislation should guarantee an efficient registration process and operation of NGOs.

    He said NGOs should be given a transitional period of up to one year to regularise their operations.

    Mr Mudehwe suggested that NGOs should formulate their own code of conduct that would then be approved by the proposed council.

    Zimbabwe Aids Network co-ordinator Ms Kate Mhambi-Musimwa said the proposed annual registration of NGOs would compromise their programmes and suggested it be increased to at least three years.

    The registration, she said, should be decentralised to cater for organisations operating in remote areas.

    A representative of the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, Mr Charles Mlilwawa, said the Bill was long overdue since some NGOs were now involved in clandestine activities.

    He said some of the trade unions in the country have been receiving foreign funding to promote certain political agendas at the expense of advancing the interests of the workers.

    Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe president Bishop Trevor Manhanga, whose organisation has been accused of meddling in opposition politics under the guise of the church, said while the Bill stipulated that its provisions would not cover religious organisations, there was need for further clarification because the church also dealt with issues of governance and human rights.

    Government has already gazetted the Bill following concerns that some NGOs were now diverting from their core business by receiving foreign funding to destabilise the State.

    Among some of the organisations that made submissions to the committee were the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu), Padare Men’s Forum and the National Society for the Care of the Handicapped (Nascoh).

    The committee, chaired by Rushinga MP Cde Lazarus Dokora (Zanu-PF), would compile a report on its findings before tabling it in the House for deliberations. The other members of the committee include Mufakose MP Ms Paurina Mpariwa (MDC), Gokwe West MP Mrs Esther Nyauchi (Zanu-PF), Mpopoma MP Mr Milford Gwetu (MDC) and Chief Joseph Hama of Midlands.

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