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This article participates on the following special index pages:
NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
Controversial NGO Bill passed
December 10, 2004
- Charity groups in Zimbabwe have adopted a wait-and-see approach
since a controversial bill placing severe restrictions on the activities
of foreign-funded NGOs was passed by parliament.
The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill sailed through parliament
on Thursday and now awaits the president's assent before becoming
law, according to the official Herald newspaper.
The new legislation will ban foreign NGOs concerned principally
with "issues of governance", and NGOs receiving foreign funding
for "promotion and protection of human rights and political governance
issues" will be denied registration.
In the weeks leading up to tabling of the bill, humanitarian groups
raised concerns that the definition of "political governance" was
too wide and would seriously impact on the operations of a host
of organisations involved in charity work, including animal welfare
and environmental advocacy.
But some aid workers were optimistic on Friday that their operations
would continue without government interference.
"We are not overly concerned, because so far it has been business
as usual. Obviously, the legislation doesn't sit well with humanitarian
groups, who feel that there are [already] sufficient monitoring
mechanisms in place to ensure that aid groups do not become overly
political," a Harare-based aid worker told IRIN.
She added that certain provisions in the bill, which include setting
up a regulatory council that can decide whether a particular NGO
will be registered or not, were cumbersome.
"This particular legislation is not the easiest, and the government
will have a tough time implementing it, especially since the work
of NGOs often overlaps into issues of human rights," the aid worker
Ellen Tagwireyi, acting director of World Vision-Zimbabwe, said
the organisation had not encountered any problems so far, but would
"We have been updating our donors regularly about the development
on the ground and they appear fine. We will only really be concerned
when our sponsors get nervous and decide to stop the funding," she
Meanwhile, NGOs likely to face closure after the law is enacted
said they would remain defiant.
Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constituent Assembly,
an NGO advocating for human rights, said passage of the bill had
been "expected" and "predictable".
"In the next two weeks [President Robert] Mugabe will sign the bill
into law and then we will see what the government's next step is.
But we will do everything to defy the law and continue to agitate
for change," Madhuku said.
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