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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • NGO Bill: Government negotiation in bad faith
    Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP)
    November 10, 2004

    Government has given notice of amendments to the controversial NGO Bill. One of the points of contention of the Bill is the definition of the "issues of governance".

    In his amendment, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare says "issues of governance" means:

    • issues stipulated in the first generation rights as contained in the International Covenance on Civil and Political Rights and also spelt out under the African Charter Article 2-23;
    • activities aimed at public transparency and accountability;
    • strengthening public support for an understanding on anti-corruption programmes;
    • furthering and facilitating the interests or activities of a political party.

    Government would obviously be justified if it stopped any NGO from furthering and facilitating the interests or activities of a political party. However, in the case of (a), (b) and (c) above, a government which is the product of the liberation struggle should embrace activities aimed at public transparency and accountability, as well as strengthening public support for an understanding on anti-corruption programmes, because it has nothing to hide, hence the establishment of an anti-corruption ministry.

    And what is wrong with raising rights issues as contained in international and African conventions to which government is a signatory?

    But besides the issue of governance, the Minister ignored the other fundamental matters such as the composition of the NGO Council; registration; foreign funding; and transitional mechanism.

    The other seven amendments made by the Minister are of no consequence at all.

    It should be noted that government and NANGO have been negotiating since 2002. NGOs have since then accepted the principle of regulation but preferred self-regulation.

    When the Bill was gazetted recently, the parliamentary portfolio committee on the ministry of public service, labour and social welfare held a public hearing for stakeholders. NGOs made presentations on the negative socio-economic and humanitarian implications of the Bill.

    Apparently the committee submitted a positive report to parliament on their findings.

    A workshop involving ZANU PF and MDC Members of Parliament as well as NGO representatives was held in Nyanga in September to discuss the Bill. They came up with positive recommendations which were forwarded to the relevant authorities.

    Other representations were made to various senior ZANU PF and government officials who appeared to be receptive and sensitive to the concerns of the NGO community.

    Nevertheless, government has still not made fundamental changes to the Bill. Therefore, government has been negotiating in bad faith while the NGOs were sincere.

    Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP) would like to remind government that if they passed the Bill without fundamental amendments, the country’s food security would be threatened, as about 2.2 million people who need food aid might not get it.

    Not only that, the tourism sector would be affected further, since tourism earnings fell from US$770 million in 1999 to US$77 million in 2002.

    • Foreign currency inflows associated with NGOs would almost dry up. This would be a huge loss to the nation.
    • Up to 25 000 people employed by NGOs would lose their jobs and income. Those breadwinners presently support at least 100 000 people.
    • HIV/AIDS sufferers’ and orphans’ survival would be threatened.
    • Critical assistance for people with disabilities would be heavily reduced or cut.
    • Various sectors of the economy and public institutions would get a serious knock. They include agriculture, transport, infrastructure, commerce, industry, Zimra, research and tertiary institutions, communal micro-enterprises, etc.
    • Zimbabwe’s isolation would increase when the country should actually be building bridges.

    Obviously nobody would benefit from the above scenario. The only option would be to make fundamental amendments to the Bill so that when it came for the second reading, it would have incorporated inputs from the NGOs and other stakeholders. ZLP believes that at this point in the country’s history, dialogue, compromise, trust, political commitment and tolerance would deliver the nation from the current socio-economic and political crisis.

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