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Zimbabwe govt renews attack on NGOs

by Staff reporter
20 Mar 2024 at 06:36hrs | Views
GOVERNMENT has maintained that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) remain a security threat requiring tough legislation to oversee their operations and whip them into line.

Social Welfare minister July Moyo lashed out at the NGOs while presenting a paper at the Zimbabwe National Defence University last week.

In his paper titled Legitimacy and Accountability of International NGO (INGO)/NGO: Implications for National Security, Moyo accused the civic groups of trying to effect regime change.

Pointing out that issues of national security should always take precedence over any activities by the NGOs, Moyo said: "When it comes to INGO/NGO operating in the realm of national security, issues of legitimacy and accountability become more critical.

"These organisations often work in sensitive and complex environments where their actions can have significant implications for national security.

"Therefore, it is essential for them to uphold standards of legitimacy and accountability to ensure that they remain credible actors in this domain observing the objectives of their registration."

This comes when the revised Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, which seeks to regulate NGOs, has been brought to Parliament for debate.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last year withheld his assent on the proposed law after it was passed by both Houses, arguing that it needed more fine-tuning.

Moyo accused NGOs of attempting to push for regime change in the country.

"In recent years, a number of NGOs have been trying to promote regime change in Zimbabwe under the guise of promoting democracy, good governance and human rights. Zimbabwe prides in its diligent and robust security systems that have busted and exposed rogue NGOs," he said.

Moyo said NGOs are registered to compliment the government's education, health, social protection, agriculture and environment programmes.

"INGOs must have memorandums of understanding with relevant line ministries and must be approved by Cabinet before operation in the country," he said.

"NGOs are approved by the Private Voluntary Organisation Board after satisfying conditions laid down in the Act. The board has 23 members, of which 16 are from civil society organisations and the remainder from government."

Moyo further stated that forcing the INGOs and NGOs to be accountable was essential to foster trust among donors, beneficiaries and other stakeholders, including the government.

"In national security, accountability is about ensuring that agencies and officials are held responsible for their actions in safeguarding the country against various threats," he added.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ) spokesperson Marvelous Kumalo, however, said Moyo was offside.

Kumalo argued that NGOs have done stellar work in their mandates, including when the country has been hit by natural disasters.

"For a whole Cabinet minister to deliver such a misleading statement that NGOs have pursued a regime change agenda and played a destructive role is very unfortunate," he said.

"The term NGO is very clear that the government has nothing to do with them in terms of ownership and operations of NGOs.

"It is only in Zimbabwe and a few other undemocratic jurisdictions where we would have a government concerned with the operations of NGOs, where the government would want NGOs to submit reports and their budgets to them."

Kumalo said the CiCZ remains worried about moves by State actors to push for the amendment of the PVOs Act.

"The current environment where the government is pushing for the PVO Amendment Bill, we became worried about the intentions of the government. Government wants to silence NGOs that are viewed as critical."

Last year, the United Nations called on Mnangagwa not to consent to the PVOs Bill, saying this would severely restrict civic space and the right to freedom of association in the southern African nation.

Should Mnangagwa sign the PVOs Amendment Bill into law, government would be equipped with wide powers to interfere in the operations of civil society organisations.

Human rights defenders, some politicians and many civic groups have warned of looming attacks on democracy advocates if the PVOs Bill becomes law.

Source - newsday
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