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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • The shut down of Independant Civic Society and humanitarian work in Zimbabwe
    Ben Freeth
    September 06, 2004

    I have recently read through the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill. On the road that has been termed the road of the" legal revolution" by one of the third chimurenga engineers, this is a huge milestone.

    It is important that any one in any way involved in any organisation that is helping the old people or the destitute or those that are hungry or sick or in prison should read the proposed legislation and do something about it.

    The bill starts by saying that it is being proposed for "monitoring and regulation of all non-governmental organisations". It defines an NGO as "any foreign or local body or association of persons, corporate or unincorporate, or any institution the objects of which include:

    [a] the provision of all or any of the material, mental, physical or social needs of persons or families;

    [b] the rendering of charity to persons or families in distress;

    [c] the prevention of social distress or destitution of persons or families;

    [d] the provision of assistence in,or promotion of, activities aimed at uplifting the standard of living of persons or families;

    [e] the provision of funds for legal aid;

    [f] the prevention of cruelty to, or the promotion of the welfare of, animals;

    [g] the promotion and protection of human rights or good governence;

    [h] the promotion and protection of environmental rights and interests and sustainable development

    A few exceptions are then listed but in essence any independent body outside the State involved with any of the noble and highly commendable activities outlined above will be "monitered and regulated" by an NGO Council made up of appointees by the Minister of Public Service Health and Social Welfare.

    Each organisation will have to pay this "council" for the priviledge of continuing their good work. This will be on an annual basis at a sum that will be "prescribed".

    Each organisation will also have to have its registration determined by this council. This involves a long process involving publishing details of the application in a national newspaper within 30 days of the application to the Council and then giving 60 days for a chance for anyone to object to your organisation carrying out its noble activities. A registration certificate needs to be obtained every year and the "Council may at any time cancel any certificate of regitration".

    Any person from an organisation caught feeding the hungry or helping the widows or the orphans or any other such illegal activity defined above without having been registered will face up to 5 months imprisonment. Any person caught collecting contributions for such work will face up to 6 months imprisonment.

    "No local NGO shall recieve any foreign funding or donation to carry out activities involving or including issues of governance".

    With the ink not yet dry on the recent get togeather of the heads of state in the SADC region in Mauritius and the assurence that the Zimbabwe election, and the democratic space within Zimbabwe, would be open and free and fair, one wonders [if those heads of State fail yet again to do anything about such draconian legislation], whether such people know the meaning of such words.

    The immortal words of Jesus come to mind:

    "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

    "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or need clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and come and visit you ?

    "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,you did for me'.

    "Then he will say to those on his left 'depart from me, you who are cursed,into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

    "They also will answer, Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison,and did not help you?'

    "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth ,whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,you did not do for me'.

    "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life' ".

    For the legislators who intend to vote this bill into law and by so doing obstruct those that are trying to help those that are hungry and in need let them first read this passage of scripture and be warned.

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