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This article participates on the following special index pages:
NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
hearing on the NGO Bill
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
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
*Michael Davies is the Chairperson
for the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA).
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