December 10, 2004

Controversial NGO Bill passed

Charity groups in Zimbabwe have adopted a wait-and-see approach since a controversial bill placing severe restrictions on the activities of foreign-funded NGOs was passed by parliament.
The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill sailed through parliament on Thursday, Dec 9, and now awaits the president's assent before becoming law, according to the official Herald newspaper. The new legislation will ban foreign NGOs concerned principally with "issues of governance", and NGOs receiving foreign funding for "promotion and protection of human rights and political governance issues" will be denied registration.
In the weeks leading up to tabling of the bill, humanitarian groups raised concerns that the definition of "political governance" was too wide and would seriously impact on the operations of a host of organisations involved in charity work.
A senior Zimbabwe government representative at the ongoing 36th session of the Africa Commission on Human Rights, David Mangota, has indicated the government will shut down the country's two biggest non-government organisations (NGOs) because they were allegedly working to unseat it from power. Ministry of Justice permanent secretary David Mangota told a public session of the commission that the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe (CCZ) were working with foreign enemies of the government to undermine its hold on power. Mangota told the commission that Harare was prepared to work with civic society but threatened action against the two organisations because they were "conduits of foreign policies, through which interference in governance is achieved." Mangota also told the commission that the controversial NGO Bill that will severely restrict civic society in Zimbabwe was necessary to protect "the national interest of the generality of the people."
Meanwhile, NGOs likely to face closure after the law is enacted said in Harare they would remain defiant. Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constituent Assembly said passage of the bill had been "expected" and "predictable". "In the next two weeks [President Robert] Mugabe will sign the bill into law and then we will see what the government's next step is. But we will do everything to defy the law and continue to agitate for change," Madhuku said. (IRIN, ZWNews/Zim Online)

The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill will be debated in the SADOCC library on Dec 16, 19 hrs.

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