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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Zimbabwe: Govt confirms probe into NGO activities, funding
    Relief Web
    May 02, 2005

    JOHANNESBURG, - The Zimbabwean government has confirmed that an inter-ministerial team that includes members of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the state security organ, are probing the activities of local and foreign NGOs operating in the country.

    The government's admission came as reports emerged that the teams had visited over 15 NGOs since the beginning of last month.

    According to an alert issued by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) the teams were "examining all documents relating to financial affairs, expenditure, sources of funding and a verification of the activities implemented on the ground."

    Public Service Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche told IRIN that the teams, which include state security operatives and officials from other line ministries, began their investigation last month.

    He said they were appointed in terms of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act and were charged with carrying out a "routine audit" of NGO activities and accounts, including checking on their compliance to their stated objectives and activities.

    NANGO, itself a target of the probe, alleged that the government could be looking for excuses to close down some NGOs as soon as President Robert Mugabe signs a controversial NGO Bill into law.

    The bill, which will ban the activities of organisations involved in human rights and civic education campaign, also outlaws foreign funding of NGOs. It would also subject NGOs to strict vetting by a committee appointed by the government, with minimal NGO representation.

    The audit teams are also reported to be examining the constitution of the boards of NGOs, reviewing documents relating to the registration of NGOs and the implementation of their stated objectives.

    According to NANGO, they are also interested in the source of funding, how the money was changed into local currency and whether it was used for purposes indicated on the organisations schedule of activities.

    "The raids could be a vindictive and punitive response to what has been termed as subversive activities of NGOs," NANGO said in a statement.

    Since 2001, the government has repeatedly accused local and international NGOs in the country of being conduits for western funds aimed at supporting opposition groups and other 'anti-government elements'.

    State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa said although he was not aware of the ongoing probe, it would be incorrect to say the raids were politically motivated.

    "I don't know about the involvement of my ministry. If we are, then it could be a routine investigation. It is true that some NGOs in this country have been used as fronts to fund pro-Western subversive activities. Some have been peddling foreign currency on the black market, thereby grossly undermining national recovery programmes," Mutasa said.

    "Besides, is it not normal for any law-governed country to check that everyone, including foreign organisations, abide by the laws? Those organisations that know they are clean need not worry when the law comes around," Mutasa added.

    Some of the 15 organisations that have so far been visited by audit teams include NANGO, World Vision, Zimrights and the Farm Orphan Support Trust. Representatives of various other organisations in Bulawayo and Harare confirmed being visited by the audit teams but refused to give details.

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