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NGOs vow to continue despite Bill

Itai Dzamara

NON-GOVERNMENTAL Organisations (NGOs) involved in issues of democracy, human rights and media advocacy have said they will continue operating until government uses the NGO B

ill to ban them.

The NGO Bill awaits President Robert Mugabe’s assent after opposition resistance in parliament failed to stop the ruling party from pushing it through last year.

The Zimbabwe Independent this week established that donors from Europe and the United States have frozen further assistance to local NGOs due to the uncertainty brought about by the Bill.

The NGOs now hope to be accredited by government in line with the provisions of the NGO Bill before they can get funding from the international community.

However, local NGOs involved in democracy, human rights and media advocacy fear they may be denied accreditation. National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku’s personal assistant Ernest Mudzengi said they were already suffering from the withdrawal of funding by international donors but would continue operating.

“The issue of donor funds is one problem that has been created by this Bill,” said Mudzengi.

“It will be difficult to operate without funding but we are not going to stop fighting for a new constitution. We will use all means possible to survive for the sake of democracy,” he said.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) chairman, Reginald Matchaba-Hove, said they were weighing their options in the event that the Bill was signed by Mugabe.

“We are operating as if all is normal because it hasn’t been signed into law,” Matchaba-Hove said. “But we are totally opposed to the Bill. It is retrogressive for the people of Zimbabwe. We are considering measures to take in the event that it becomes law.”

Media Institute of Southern Africa chairman for the Zimbabwe chapter

Thomas Deve also said they would remain in operation.

“We are still operating and waiting for the next step by government. We are still surviving on the funds we already have,” he said.

Zimbabwe Human Rights (ZimRights) director Munyaradzi Bidi said they were still operating.

“We have to continue fighting for the upholding of human rights. It is clear the Bill is draconian and we have made our statements clear regarding its effects on the nation,” he said.

Implementing partners working with the United Nations World Food Programme retrenched more than half of their workforce in Zimbabwe late last year. The NGO sector employed more than 10 000 people before the clampdown.

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