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Government to amend NGO Bill

Godfrey Marawanyika

GOVERNMENT intends to amend the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill to streamline the targeted institutions by defining the contentious issues of governance.

T face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The original Bill went through its first reading in parliament last week.

The proposed legislation will repeal the Private Voluntary Organisations Act to make it illegal for NGOs involved in issues of governance to receive foreign funding.

The amendments have now defined issues of governance as “issues stipulated in the first generation rights as contained in the International Convenant on Civil and political rights and also as spelt out under the African Charter 2-23”, the amendment says.

Issues of governance, according to the amendments, also entail “activities aimed at public transparency and accountability”.

The new amendments define governance as activities aimed at strengthening public support for an”understanding on anti-corruption programmes”.

Governance means “furthering and facilitating the interest or activities of a political party”, says the amendment.

Constitutional law expect Lovemore Madhuku said the new definition of governance was a way of barring foreign funding for the local NGO sector.

“The government has now decided to be more specific on what it means by human rights. By amending the Bill they have streamlined who is targeted and they want to divide the NGO sector, ” Madhuku said.

The Bill, if enacted into law, will also outlaw the registration of foreign NGOs whose “sole or principal objects involve or include issues of governance”.

Civic groups likely to be affected include Crisis Coalition, Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa, Transparency International and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. In the Bill, civic groups dealing with media rights and advocacy are not covered under the definition of a non-governmental organisation.

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