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of the NGO Bill to NASCOH and the disability sector
Asociation of Scieties for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH)
October 04, 2004
the NGO Bill as a welcome development in as far as it seeks to provide
for an enabling environment for the operations, monitoring and regulation
of all non-governmental organizations although, the Bill should
not be passed to become law in its current state. As NASCOH, we
do not support illegal operations and we believe that since NGOs
complement the Government, they should indeed also be accountable
to the government through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour
and Social Welfare by submitting audited reports to the Ministry.
However, our bone of contention is on a few areas that are in the
Firstly, the Bill outlines that organizations dealing with issues
of governance will not be allowed to continue with the use of
foreign funding. By 'issues of governance,' the Bill outlines that
this includes the promotion and protection of human rights and political
governance issues. A closer look at the mission of NASCOH and its
major activities, outlined above, no doubt shows that NASCOH serves
to advocate and lobby for the rights of people with disabilities
in line with international conventions such as the United Nations
Standard Rules on the Equalization of opportunities for people with
It is a fact
that people with disabilities have, for a long time, constituted
a minority in obscurity and their rights have been minimum at best.
Society has taken long to accept disability as diversity in God's
creation and has thus relegated them to home dwellers, ignoring
them and believing them incapable of participating in the community.
At worst, people with disabilities have been avoided and considered
as unpleasant reminders of the fragility of our existence. The majorities
of them never saw the door of a classroom and are still not going
to school. It has become a mark of commonplace courtesy and intellectual
rigor to note occasions when issues regarded as topical are tabled
yet there is a strange and really unaccountable silence when
the issue of disability is raised. It is because of such a background
that NASCOH mainly focuses on lobbying for the rights of people
with disabilities in Zimbabwe among which are the following:
- The right
of people with disabilities not to be discriminated against in
society and at law both in the private and public spheres. Discrimination
on the grounds of sex, gender, pregnancy, marital status, age
and culture should be prohibited.
- The right
of people with disabilities to an education, training and access
to educational facilities or the provision of special facilities
that should be accessible to them and where possible, within their
- The right
to state provided basic health, medication and apparatus for their
rehabilitation and medical care.
- The right
to social welfare at levels agreed upon annually by the Board,
the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and
the Ministry of Finance in consultation with associations of and
for people with disabilities.
- The right
to the provision of State assisted shelter and housing on the
basis of need.
- The right
to freedom of movement and accordingly access to all public and
private buildings, including those buildings and places providing
a public service or amenity.
- The right
to information concerning any matter related to disability, the
rehabilitation and prevention of disability and research thereto,
as well as information on employment opportunities for disabled
persons and educational information.
- The right
to leisure and recreation and to that end the State should ensure
access to leisure and recreational facilities in communities that
people with disabilities live in.
Disability rights are
Our concern as NASCOH is therefore that if the definition of governance
in the NGO Bill means the promotion and protection of human rights,
then, no doubt, this section of the bill is a threat to the work
that NASCOH is doing, that of ensuring that people with disabilities'
rights are respected in society and that they benefit from opportunities
available just like everyone else who is able-bodied.
by lobbying for the rights of people with disabilities, and by lobbying
for amendment and formulation of comprehensive disability policies,
NASCOH in essence will be highlighting that people with disabilities
are not well catered for. This is a governance issue and again is
a threat to the operations of NASCOH. Instead of the Bill providing
an enabling environment for our operation, instead it begins to
provide a prohibitive ground for operation.
the crafted NGO Bill, organizations willing to proceed with the
promotion of human rights should do so without foreign funding.
NASCOH as an umbrella of 53 member organizations received from the
government an administration grant of $3 million. In 2003, NASCOH
received $1,1 million. Ironically, NASCOH's annual budget for all
the programmes of the organization, the administration of the organization,
the coordination of member organizations and personnel is more than
three million. Unless the government is going to support NASCOH
for its programmes then we are able to do away with foreign funding,
then in essence, what the NGO Bill is seeking to do is the natural
death of NASCOH which has been benefiting people with disabilities
in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has a population of 1,2 million people with
disabilities, which is too big a population to be returned back
to square one. It is common knowledge that local fundraising in
an economy experiencing negative growth is largely near impossible.
The NGO Bill
seeks to establish an NGO council whereby 10 members will
be from relevant government ministries while the other 5 will be
from the NGO sector, appointed by the Minister of Public Service,
Labour and Social Welfare in liaison with certain associations.
Our concern is that since the biggest number of people will be from
the Government, won't it cease to be an NGO council and become a
government council? Secondly, the disability sector lacks representation
at all higher levels. We have no representation in Parliament and
at Ministerial level. Now that the council will only have five representatives
in the council from the NGO sector, won't the disability movement
be forgotten again?
NASCOH is also
concerned with the issue of registration of organizations.
The Bill calls for stringent and centralized registration, which
to us is a source of discomfort considering that there are still
many areas in Zimbabwe, which do not have registered organizations
for people with disabilities. We feel that the centralization of
registration is going to make registration both slow and inefficient.
According to the Bill, the Director of Social services will temporarily
be the registrar of NGOs until a Director solely responsible for
this is employed. From experience, NASCOH does not see the feasibility
of this. NASCOH has been crying for a Director for disability affairs
as stipulated in the Disabled persons' Act (1992) for a long time
and up to now that Director has not yet been appointed. The current
Director for Social services already has a big load of work considering
he is responsible for social services, the disabled, children, the
aged, poverty reduction etc. His capacity to focus on issues of
registration of NGOs may be a bit too much and unrealistic for efficiency
While the move for an NGO Act is noble, as it certainly is not proper
to operate in space, as NASCOH we sincerely hope that the above
highlighted sections will be amended and that the Bill will not
be passed to become law in its current state. We urging all our
member organizations and all stakeholders concerned to continue
lobbying their legislators to take cognizance of the above issues
and ensure that the necessary amendments are made.
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