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NGO Bill – the trap is set

By Wellington Mbofana

A STORY is told of a man who set up a mousetrap (riva/isifu) to catch a troublesome rat that was ransacking his granary at will. When the rat discovered the trap he ran to cockerel to a

dvise him to put it down.

The cock just laughed since it seemed apparent that the trap was meant for the rat. The rat warned that things are not what they seem; the trap was ill-fated (riva rine ngozi / isifu silengozi). The cock refused to set it off anyway.

The rat then approached the goat. Similarly the goat was too big to be caught in a mousetrap. The rat again advised that the trap was damned. The goat could not be bothered.

Likewise the giant ox. No amount of persuasion or talk of solidarity would convince the ox to trip off the trap. He could not be bothered because it seemed obvious that the trap was meant for the mischievous rat! Again the rat warned that the trap was damned.

In the evening the rat used his normal route to the granary but remembered to avoid the trap. Lo and behold a hungry black mamba was drawn toward the granary by the scent of the rat. It got into the trap, tripping it off and getting caught in the midsection, leaving the upper half of the serpent free.

When the owner of the trap was awoken by the sound of its falling, he was excited and went out to investigate in spite of wise counsel to wait for the morrow from the wife.

When he got to the trap the angry mamba bit him in the stomach. His cries of anguish woke the whole neighbourhood. By the time the villagers had killed the mamba, the man was already paralysed and his body turning black. Nothing could be done to save him. He died after a couple of minutes.

All this happened in the full view of the rat that had hastened to investigate the victim of the trap. He rushed to tell the other animals of the developments in the household. They remained unfazed.

As per tradition word of the tragedy was sent to the elders, relatives and friends. At daybreak the elders started the rites of announcing the death of the man. The rites demanded that a cock be slaughtered for the in-laws.

From the thatched roof the rat heard the plan and rushed to inform the cockerel of his near demise. Before his capture the rat remembered to remind him of his prophecy: the trap was ill-fated, riva rine ngozi/isifu silengozi! It was too late for the cockerel.

For lunch the family elders demanded that the goat be slaughtered to feed the mourners. As the goat was being led away to be slaughtered, the rat dutifully reminded him that the trap was damned.

The following day a big crowd gathered for the funeral and to feed the mourners the elders ordered the slaughter of the giant ox. Like before, the rat reminded the big animal that despite its size, it was condemned to die by the trap that was damned.

Things are not what they seem, riva rine ngozi/isifu silengozi! Over the past years, laws have been passed in this country that seemed innocent but later turned monstrous at implementation.

Parliament is now sitting to discuss inter-alia the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) – sounds more like “NGOzi”! – and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Bills as well as amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

Like before, the Bills look, to the common person, holy and innocent. Indeed many are unfazed and try not to see the threat to their livelihoods and indeed their lives.

When Aippa was fast-tracked through parliament, it was perceived as meant to deal with the independent media like the Daily News and errant journalists from the same independent stable. When the perceptive late legislator Eddison Zvobgo advised that Aippa was the most calculated assault on citizens’ political and civil liberties, the majority of the members in the House felt they were too big to be caught by the mousetrap.

Today, everybody now appreciates that isifu silengozi, as everybody has become a victim. Complaints by senior members of the governing Zanu PF and government have – like the opposition, civil society and other independent and dissenting voices – been shut out of the public media. Riva rine ngozi!

The gazetted NGO and ZEC Bills are not what they seem. They are going to affect everybody and every sector. Critics look at the NGO Bill and reduce its effects to a mere loss of 10 000 jobs. Others even question what they think are high salaries in the sector and the use of 4×4 vehicles with long aerials (mota dzemireza).

When the trap falls, foreign currency inflows will be greatly reduced – isn’t it that 85% of bids at the RBZ auction were turned down only recently and yet the wood is still green? – the hotel industry whose 60% of business is now coming from the NGOs, the ailing banking sector and so on will suffer.

The lack of forex has a ripple effect on the oil sector, agriculture – threatening the gains of the successful land reform programme, that is the “Third Chimurenga” – and food importation etc. Unfortunately many in these sectors seem to think that they are safe!

No one is safe including the sponsors and drafters of the same laws.

Similarly the ZEC Bill cuts across the grain of the Southern Africa Development Community principles on free and fair elections and thus puts regional solidarity and the country’s political and social stability at risk!

As honourable members of parliament consider and deliberate on these Bills they ought to be guided by wise counsel, riva rine ngozi/isifu silengozi!

*Wellington Mbofana is director of Civic Education Network Trust.

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