March 11, 2005

Zim widens crackdown on NGOs

Zimbabwe has widened a probe into the operations of non-governmental organisations, many of which face closure under a new law, saying they will have to submit regular audits to the state, a state-run daily said on Thursday. "All non-governmental organisations will now be required to account for the money that they received from donors," The Herald quoted Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mangwana as saying. "This is simply what we are asking them to do. We are not fighting them. We simply want to promote a culture of transparency and accountability." The Herald said all ministries had been ordered with "immediate effect" to "submit lists of NGOs that they were working with." The government had earlier said it would probe only 30 NGOs that allegedly failed to account how $88.7m they received in international aid in the wake of a crippling food shortage in 2003 had been used.

The Zimbabwean parliament last year passed the NGO bill that will require NGOs to submit to government scrutiny and ban foreign funding for organisations involved in governance programmes. The law has yet to be signed by President Robert Mugabe. The Zimbabwe government said the controversial bill was a response to the proliferation of NGOs it alleged were being used by foreign powers as conduits for channelling funds to the country's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party. Mangwana said any NGO which failed to account how it had used funds in humanitarian aid would be prosecuted. He said his ministry had set up a committee to randomly pick NGOs and ask them to account for the money they received between 2003 and 2004. Jonah Mudehwe, director of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, an umbrella body of NGOs, "the government is trying to build a case against NGOs." "This has to be linked to the NGO bill. We are still trying to find out what the justification is and what the government's motive is." (ZWNews / News24, SA)

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