By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Various civil society leaders have spoken strongly over threats by government that it intends to de-register Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which are reportedly dabbling in politics.
During a cabinet briefing early this week, acting Labour and Social Welfare minister Kazembe Kazembe sent a warning to civic organisations which were ‘dabbling in politics’ saying they risk losing their registration certificates, without naming any of them.
Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe spokesperson Tabani Moyo described the ‘chilling’ warning as deplorable as it sets to intimidate civic actors.
“It is unfortunate and deplorable that the minister issued such a chilling warning because the definition of what he terms politics is relative rather than absolute.
“The statement is vague and bordered on intimidating and threatening the entire spectrum of NGOs in Zimbabwe,” charged Tabani Moyo who is also MISA Zimbabwe director.
He further said the move was contradictory to the ‘Zim is open for business mantra’ the government is ranting.
Another human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga who is the Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch says civic organisations have institutional framework to conduct their activities without interference to promote transparency and accountability.
“Civil society organisations have a proper framework and right to operate freely without undue hindrances.
“In the spirit of openness we believe there is the need for NGOs to execute their mandates freely without threats of de-registering hanging over their heads,” Mavhinga weighed in.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Blessing Gorejena is worried that the sentiments by government will likely dent the credibility of civil society organisations (CSOs) activities making it difficult to reach out to communities where their mandates (CSOs) should prioritise.
“ It is designed on attacking the credibility and democratic work of CSOs and this will make it even difficult to access communities where our work is needed the most,” believes the Zim Human Rights NGO Forum boss.
In a statement in response to the alleged threats , National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations(NANGO) reminded its members to comply with the law but continue to pursue their mandates without fear.
“NANGO reminds all registered PVOs (private voluntary organisations) to comply with the PVO Act that requires annual narrative and financial reports to be submitted to the Registrar of PVOs.
“NANGO urges all NGOs to continue to diligently pursue the achievement of their objectives without fear and comply with the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” stated the largest NGO umbrella organisation.
It is understood that the country has over 400 registered NGOs.
Non-Governmental Organisations have for a long-time been criticised by the government for siding with the opposition which earned them the ‘regime change’ agents tag which was coined by the former information and publicity minister Professor Jonathan Moyo.
However, aid agencies have been cited as the major boost for our health delivery system and have also been pivotal in food security in drought-prone areas.