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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Time to speak out unequivocally in condemnation of proposed NGO Bill
    Reverend Dr. Martine Stemerick (Methodist Minister)
    September 15, 2004

    The pending NGO bill is Mugabe’s latest attempt to close down any NGO that supports human rights, feeds the hungry, documents human rights abuse, or monitors torture in Zimbabwe. Under this legislation, Mugabe seeks to control those who speak out for the oppressed and to remove completely the Church’s freedom to respond to human need according to the mandates given by God in Scripture. 

    Now is the time for churches, the government, human rights organizations, and concerned individuals to speak out unequivocally in condemnation and opposition to the proposed NGO legislation, and to the on-going state-sponsored repression that the government of Robert Mubage is inflicting upon the suffering people of Zimbabwe.

    People are starving in Zimbabwe today. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable: four boys and six girls under the age of 14 died last month of hunger, according to the Bulawayo City Council Health department, who have recorded 161 deaths by starvation so far this year. Many more deaths go unreported. 

    AIDS orphans and the elderly relatives who care for them are especially at risk, and yet Mugabe’s government this week insisted that the Red Cross reduce the amount of maize meal that is their only reliable source of food. The Zimbabwe government is understood to have asked the Red Cross to reduce the quantity of food aid distributed to orphans and people living with HIV/AIDS in the country’s Matabeleland North and South provinces.

    The Red Cross, one of the few Non-Governmental Organisations still allowed by Harare to feed hungry people in the region, was handing out a nutritional package of 50 kilogrammes of the staple mealie-meal and other foodstuffs per month to deserving families. People have reported that the organisation is now distributing only 10kg of mealie-meal per month to the families following the government’s instruction to reduce quantities.

    In July, Mugabe’s pitiless regime insisted that NGO’s like Christian Care and World Vision stop their feeding programs, saying the country has plenty of food. Christian Care and World Vision have moved most of their operations out of Zimbabwe. We are hearing many stories about starvation at Darfur, and yet 2.5 million people may be at risk of starvation in Zimbabwe.  The U.N. and other independent food experts estimate that, at most, one million tonnes of maize were harvested in a country that requires 1.8 to 2.4 million tonnes annually. Robert Mugabe wants to control the supply of food to all people in the months leading up to the elections scheduled for March, 2005.

    When Archbishop Pius Ncube was in London in July, he made this plea: "By keeping quiet, the churches are falling into the hands of Mugabe. Now that Mugabe is saying there is enough food, when there isn’t, it means that he is planning to starve people until they conform to him. Beat them into submission. I mean, what would Jesus Christ say  if he were here today? Would he just be quiet while people are starving to death? When they are held to ransom by a dictator? To me, these churches  are betraying Jesus Christ. They must speak up. All of them. Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Evangelicals: all of them.  Because the people of Zimbabwe are suffering.

    Now is the time to speak out.

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