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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • Public hearing on the NGO Bill
    *Mike Davies
    September 09, 2004

    The following represents my personal views and does not reflect the official position of CHRA


    On Tuesday several hundred Zimbabweans took the time to make a stand against totalitarianism.

    In the face of an onslaught by the mugabe regime, such a demonstration of the collective voice of the people was uplifting and reinvigorating. It doesn't matter that the hearing was a waste of time and that the regime will go ahead to push its latest 'legal' weapon through parliament. That is only to be expected in our debased and subverted political system. We will not go out without a very large amount of noise.

    But I was saddened to see the composition of the crowd was restricted seemingly only to those who felt that their organisations would be directly affected. Where were the SPCA, Environment Africa, Wildlife Society, community theatre groups and many other NGOs who are concerned with Zimbabwe's well-being? Do they think they are not affected by this bill? Do they think they are non-political and therefore immune to its threats? They should think again and read section 24. Every NGO is subject to total control through these mechanisms. Within a few years, the regime can exert its control to replace the entire managements of NGOs and install officials of its own choice. When the "non-political" civics wake up, who will speak out for them?

    This is not a fight about ideology. It is certainly not about the land or the liberation struggle. The tyranny has pared the debate down to the core. This is about the very ability to engage in any debate in the national discourse. The NGO Bill aims to do to our collective voices articulated through civics what AIPPA did to our print media and the BSA did to the airwaves. To silence those who speak out.

    We are seeing the deja vu replay of the situation with commercial farmers from 2000 on when many white farmers said "no we are not political, we can accommodate the settlers, we have ZIJIRI, we can do a deal with the minister, the DA, the warlord" and who gave up a quarter, a half of their farms, ploughing and planting the fields of their new neighbours in a naive desperation to retain something of their life's work. No surprise of course that in the following years (usually at harvest-time), the neighbours took over the balance of the land. If a crocodile has you by the foot, giving it your arm as well will not make it go away! When a pack of rabid dogs invades the village, hiding indoors while it devours your neighbours is not an option.

    It is perhaps unfortunate but pretty much everything in life is political, especially in our country, and those who say they are not political do so because they wish to avoid their political responsibilities in society. Such denials are acutely political and those that issue them can effectively be counted as supporting the status quo. We can do as much damage by our sins of omission as by our sins of commission. Failing to speak and act against injustice to our fellow humans is a culpable sin and those that keep silent may as well wield the cudgels.

    The comments by Dave Coltart and Ben Freeth should be a clarion call to all of you who have been silent too long: the beast will come for you after he has finished with us.

    Regards and sleep well
    Mike Davies

    *Michael Davies is the Chairperson for the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA).

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