Maluleke on Tuesday ordered the suspension of the activities of 29 NGOs for allegedly failing to register their operations with his office.
But in a joint statement issued at a press conference convened in Harare Thursday the coalition of the influential civil society organisations made up of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA),
Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO), the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Maluleke’s actions were unlawful.
“The Governor’s actions were illegal and are a nullity at law. The law in this country clearly shows that he has no regulatory authority; nor does he have the power to register or de-register NGOs. Even the Provincial Council that he heads in terms of the Provincial Councils and Administration Act does not have regulatory powers over NGOs. The council exists solely to foster developmental projects initiated and carried out by central government and local government,” reads part of the joint statement.
The organisations said in terms of the law, Maluleke’s functions must be exercised through the process of consultation and suggestion with the various organs of government and not NGOs.
“As such he has no executive powers to suspend, disrupt or hinder the activities of NGO’s and there is no legal obligation for an NGO to register with his office or any other Provincial Governor’s Office.”
The influential organisations said the Masvingo Governor’s ill-advised utterances merely sought to confuse matters and are regrettably likely to worsen the humanitarian crisis prevailing in the Masvingo Province.
“This is because the list of organisations he seeks to ban include NGOs that are currently providing food, medication and water and other social economic support to the community – something the state itself has failed to do due to its misplaced priorities,” the statement said.
The actions of the Governor, the NGO’s said were irresponsible considering that the government and NGOs should be coming together to fight the socio-economic ills bedevilling Zimbabwe rather than frustrating the efforts of individuals and organisations trying their best to help out fellow Zimbabweans.
The civil society organisations said Maluleke violated section 21 (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which guarantees freedom of assembly and association, in that all the members and beneficiaries of the suspended NGOs are effectively being hindered from enjoying the benefits of such association and membership.
The CSO’s said the inclusion of security agents from both the Zimbabwe Republic Police as well as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in the press conference where Maluleke made the pronouncement suspending the NGOs was designed to cower and intimidate the NGOs.
“We wonder why this was so. We reiterate that the role of the security forces in terms of the constitution is to preserve security during times of war and, for the police, to maintain law and order in Zimbabwe. ……This fresh onslaught on NGOs does not surprise anyone, as it was already hinted at by ZANU PF at its annual conference held in Bulawayo in December last year. NGOs have weathered such attacks before, and shall do so again,” the NGO’s said.
The CSO’s said NGOs affected by the ban should ignore the order by Maluleke and continue to carry out their life saving interventions in the province and all others in the country.
National Constitution Assembly Chairman Dr Lovemore Madhuku dismissed the ban as “completely stupid” as it is not supported by any laws of Zimbabwe.
Madhuku said: “The statement doesn’t make sense it is a completely stupid statement from a governor in Masvingo. The affected organisations should ignore the order by the governor, they should not respect that. We should stick by what we believe in, let’s defy. We will be respecting him too much he can’t have that power and we will not respect that. He is only one aspect of government and we want to see the next action by government.”
Madhuku warned that if the banned organisations are to abide by the governors ruling it will put pressure on other governors around the country to follow suit.
He added, “Nothing has happened and we want to stick to that, let’s continue working together and let’s move on…we can’t have a law for Masvingo only. We will be around to deal with the next step and that’s when we will know if he is the commander of the defense forces.”
Irene Petras the director for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said they cannot take at this stage, “because the action by the governor is a nullity (and), “if they (banned NGOs) are arrested ZHLR will intervene,” she said.
Machida Marongwe the programme’s Director of NANGO said the move is a big political question that need to be addressed at the highest level of government.