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reject ministerial plan to amend NGO/Trusts legislative framework
Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in Zimbabwe (NANGO)
May 28, 2009
Civil Society Organisations have outrightly rejected the
draft Joint Memorandum by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry
of Labour and Social Services to amend the Private
Voluntary Organisations (PVO) and the Deeds Registries Act.
The intended Amendment will amongst other things pave the way for
efforts to enforce the compulsory registration of organisations
currently operating as Trusts under the draconian PVO Act - a move
that could hinder the continued operations of many Trusts currently
doing human rights, democracy and governance work. Many organisations
have over the years been refused or hindered from obtaining registration
It is the NGO
sector's belief that Zimbabwe is in urgent need of a more hollistic
regulatory framework that creates a conducive operating environment
for NGOs and one that complies with International democratic standards
and norms. Therefore the PVO Act needs a wholesale reform following
recommendations provided by NGOs in 2004.
At a Consultative
meeting convened by the National Association of Non-Governmental
Organisations (NANGO), NGO Leaders considered the broader impacts
of the intended amendments. It was noted, as is outlined in the
Memorandum that the desired outcome of the ministerial initiative
is that any NGO which is involved in the provision of welfare and
relief from distress, must register itself as a PVO. Registration
as a Trust by such a NGO must be preceded by registration as a PVO.
In the statement
of the problem, the ministers outline that some Trusts had attempted
to register as PVOs with the wish "so that they can operate
freely with the cooperation of Government departments within the
country" - thereby indirectly implying that Government was
not willing or able to cooperate with Trusts. The meeting thus stressed
that Trusts as well as PVOs and common law universities were operating
lawfully. Government therefore had no reason to not wanting to cooperate
with NGOs in general as development partners.
initiative was therefore seen by CSOs present at the meeting as
a continuation of prior attempts by the government to curtail the
operating environment for civil society. Civil Society Leaders variously
expressed dismay at the negative connotations of the Amendments:
amendments were also screened in light of the state's earlier attempts
to silence organisations it deemed as being too political: e.g NGOs
working on human rights, governance and civic education. At a time
when NGOs were fulfilling their watchdog role in the constitutional
reform and national healing process, the timing of the ministerial
initiative fostered the impression that the Government of National
Unity (GNU) intends to curtail and not enlarge civil society's engagement
in these crucial processes. Seemingly the GNU wanted to introduce
the draconic NGO Bill of 2005 through the backdoor - the aim of
the NGO Bill, which never became law, whose aim had been to curtail
or stop NGO activities on issues of governance.
also highlighted that the administration of the PVO Act was in shambles:
the application process taking years, NGOs being rejected to register
on questionable grounds and the PVO Board - responsible for amongst
other to consider and determine applications for registration -
not having set in years, and the Department of Social Welfare grossly
under-equipped to effectively assist NGOs.
the position adopted by the African Commission on Human and People's
Rights that the "Legislation that inhibits public participation
by NGOs in public education, human rights counselling must be reviewed.
The Private Voluntary Organisations Act should be repealed."
NANGO therefore clearly rejects the ministerial piece-meal attempt
to amend the PVO and the Deed Registries Act.
Visit the NANGO
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