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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Zimbabwean rights groups to challenge NGO law
    Independent On-line
    January 27, 2005

    Harare - Zimbabwe's non-governmental organisations said on Thursday they would launch a legal challenge against the constitutionality of a proposed law barring foreign funding of local human rights groups.

    President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party used its comfortable majority in parliament to pass the NGO bill last December, which will require human rights groups working in the country to register with a state-appointed council.

    Critics equate the bill with harsh media and security laws they say are aimed at muzzling opponents of Mugabe's government as Zimbabwe grapples with a political and economic crisis widely blamed on its mismanagement. A report by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango), received by Reuters on Thursday, said its position on the bill, which Mugabe has yet to make law, was "to reject it and call for the government to repeal it".

    "Preparations are well advanced for a strong legal challenge to the constitutionality of the act and to litigate on behalf of affected organisations and individuals," the report said.

    Nango urged rights groups to step up a lobbying campaign in the southern Africa region against the proposed law, saying the lack of "a free and unrestrained civil society" would make it hard for voters to make informed decisions in a parliamentary election due in March.

    Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has accused some NGOs of working with Western countries to undermine his government, mainly over its forcible redistribution of white-owned commercial farms among blacks.

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