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  • NGOs craft code of ethics
    Njabulo Ncube, The Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
    October 14, 2004

    ZIMBABWE’S troubled non-governmental sector, jittery over a restrictive law the government has tabled in parliament to monitor its operations, has crafted a code of ethics as an eleventh-hour attempt to avert the impending control.

    The self-regulatory mechanism, adopted at the weekend by about 400 members of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), seeks to ensure accountability, transparency and good governance among members.

    "We, the NGOs operating in Zimbabwe recognise and affirm our commitment to be transparent in our actions and to be accountable to the public we serve, the government and donors. We reaffirm our commitment to attaining the highest possible standards and our recognition of the need for self-regulation," reads part of the preamble of the Zimbabwe NGO Code of Ethics.

    According to a draft made available to The Financial Gazette this week, the code of ethics would enable NGOs in the country to respond to "challenges that are constantly changing and arising".

    An NGO representative body would oversee the implementation of the code, working closely with the NGO Council and Registration Committee. The draft adds that the NGO representative body would ensure that NGOs avoided "conflict of interest between NGO leadership and staff in their political and NGO interests."

    The NGO sector envisaged code of ethics comes after the crafting of the controversial NGO Bill that seeks to vet, register and monitor the operations of NGOs in Zimbabwe. It is expected to sail through parliament — in which the ruling ZANU PF has an overwhelming majority — in the next few weeks.

    The proposed law, viewed as draconian and in the same league with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), a restrictive media law that has been used to close three independent newspapers, also outlaws foreign funding of NGOs involved in human rights and governance issues.

    "Self-regulation is more desirable than government regulation," Fambai Ngirande, an information officer at NANGO, told The Financial Gazette. "We have come up with a code of ethics to show the government that we are capable of regulating ourselves as the NGO sector.

    "The government does not have the capacity to ensure that the NGOs maintain best practices. We believe it is the players in the NGO sector that can play a role in making NGOs more professional," said Ngirande.

    "We are trying to move away from the political realm. We believe if the government is the one that regulates the sector, the NGOs will end up being partisan. It should not be the government that sets standards but NGOs because they know the industry and its needs," he added.

    However, other players in the sector — which analysts claim would throw into the streets about 10 000 employees if the Bill is passed in its present form — believe the self-regulatory proposals have come too late to coax the government from passing the law.

    The government, long buffeted by accusations of a serious democracy deficit, claims some NGOs are being used as proxies by Western countries to effect regime change in Zimbabwe, charges the NGO sector denies.

    Some independent observers however believe that government has a compelling case against some of the NGOs.

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