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NGOs face closure

MORE than 400 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are facing imminent closure after failing to get their foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

The central bank has failed to release foreign currency belonging to the NGO sector for the past three months. 
The RBZ is now in charge of all foreign currency accounts in the country while commercial banks are only allowed to hold mirror accounts showing balances.
The delay in the release of the funds has forced most organisations to scale down operations.
Others are now contemplating shutting down until the central bank releases their monies which they urgently need to carry out projects.
Humanitarian and civic organisations are the most affected. Among those affected are organisations that distribute anti-retro viral drugs to the poor.
 There are also organisations that were carrying out voter education for the upcoming elections.
Some Aids organisations have reduced the number of beneficiaries on their schemes because of the crisis. 
“We are in a fix. Aids medicines must be taken consistently but at the moment we are finding it difficult to do that because the RBZ has not released our money,” said a programme coordinator with a local non-governmental organisation.
There are also various support groups that have had to scale down because of the lack of funds.
Speculation in the market is that the central bank could have used the money to prepare for the elections.
There are also unconfirmed allegations that the foreign currency was used to import equipment for the farm mechanisation programme.
The central bank recently announced that it was going to distribute machines for making ice cream, shampoo, soap and pop corn as part of government’s
economic empowerment programme.
Hundreds of tractors, harrows, ploughs, planters and combine harvesters were distributed under the mechanisation programme. Analysts have accused the central bank of starving key economic sectors of foreign currency to fund government’s campaign project.
 Efforts by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) to seek audience with central bank authorities have so far come to naught.
Nango is an association of more than 1 000 non-governmental organisations in the country.
In their latest attempt to get  a meeting with the central bank authorities Nango representatives were told that they had to wait because there is a long list of organisations that wanted meetings with the RBZ.
Nango spokesperson, Fambayi Ngirande, said the situation has become desperate for most organisations.
“What is most disturbing is that the RBZ has not offered us any clear explanation,” Ngirande said.
Ngirande said most organisations have been battling to maintain operations.
“Some organisations are yet to pay salaries but that is not really important.
“What is critical is that most organisations have scaled down critical projects.
“The level to which the central bank has become so uncountable is shocking,” said Ngirande.   
Gold mines and exporters are also yet to get their foreign currency from the central bank.
 Gold mines have not received their money for the past three months. There are now fears in the market that some mines could be forced to shut down unless they get the much-needed foreign currency soon.
“The sad part of this story is that we are not asking for money from the central bank, all we want is our money in the FCAs,” said a mine manager. 
By Shakeman Mugari

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