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Zim tightens proposed law for rights groups
October 09, 2004

Harare - The Zimbabwe government has tightened a proposed law to regulate rights organisations operating in the country, according to official documents seen by AFP on Saturday. The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, which was tabled in parliament earlier this week, seeks to ban international rights groups from operating in Zimbabwe and cut off foreign funding to local groups involved in governance issues. It has provoked widespread condemnation. According to an official notice of amendment, proposed by the social welfare ministry, rights groups targeted by the bill will now include those involved in educating the public on anti-corruption programmes and issues of public transparency and accountability. Previously the bill had not spelled out what activities would be included under the definition of "issues of governance". Groups involved in "furthering and facilitating the interests or activities of a political party" will now also be targeted.

There have been fears that hundreds of aid groups will be forced to shut down if the bill becomes law. Independent press reports have suggested that up to 10 000 jobs could be lost. More than 30 women were arrested earlier this week outside parliament for demonstrating against the bill, the third such group protest this month. This week the US state department condemned the proposed law, saying if passed it would jeopardise chances of the southern African country's general elections meeting international standards. Zimbabwe is due to hold elections in March next year.

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