Wednesday, 30 June 2021

GOVT BEGINS CLAMPING DOWN ON NGOs

GOVERNMENT has made the first move in its clampdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), with the Harare metropolitan provincial development co-ordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti ordering civic organisations operating in the capital to report to him.

Muguti has summoned all directors of NGOs and private voluntary organisations (PVOs) to pay a courtesy call to his office, claiming that some of them were operating outside their mandates.

Government has on several occasions threatened to deregister civic society organisations (CSOs), accusing them of dabbling in politics and being hostile to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu PF party.

In a circular to NGOs, CSOs, PVOs and faith-based organisations yesterday, Muguti ordered them to submit work plans for the rest of this year. He demanded that they provide him with information on workshops and other operations they would be conducting within the province.

Muguti also ordered the organisations to provide monthly reports and other information on their operations by July 9, 2021.

“It has been noted with a high degree of concern that any organisations operating in Harare Metropolitan province, in particular NGOs, have been straying from mandates stated in their respective memoranda of understanding (MOUs),” Muguti said in a circular dated June 30 seen by NewsDay.

“Suffice to say that such behaviour represents a breach of memorandum of agreement and should not be manifested further.

“In view of the foregoing, all non-governmental organisations are hereby directed that operations and clearance of NGOs is now domiciled with the provincial development co-ordinator. All NGO country directors are also invited to a courtesy call with the provincial development co-ordinator and the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution (Oliver Chidawu) for formalities.”

He, however, did not state the constitutional provisions that give him the power to summon the NGOs.

In 2019, High Court judge Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo ruled that district administrators had no business in the operations of NGOs.

Several directors of local NGOs confirmed to NewsDay that they had received Muguti’s circular yesterday, but some said they were failing to comprehend his dictates.

“As Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd), we interpreted the PDC’s dictates in many ways,” Zimcodd programmes manager John Maketo said.

“We think there is a sinister agenda behind the PDC’s demands, which is to clip the wings of NGOs that are critical to government operations. In the first place, voluntary work cannot be conducted secretively.

“We have always been open on how we exercise our duties, hence no need to demand openness. Also, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to plan ahead as there are several disruptions.”

Political analyst Fidelis Duri said Muguti’s pronouncements risked driving away some major NGOs that were offering humanitarian assistance to improve livelihoods, but do not want to operate in hostile countries.

 

He said government should name and shame those it alleged were errant NGOs, instead of attacking all voluntary organisations.

“Government has always been suspicious of NGOs, most of which are funded by the Western countries,” Duri said.

“It is important to credit the NGOs for the stability in the country because they have been able to shield the government’s shortcomings and contain civil unrest. Without them, the socio-economic turbulence resulting from bad governance would have pushed the citizens to the edge and an uprising.”

He said the clampdown was well-co-ordinated for the ruling party to ensure smooth victory in the 2023 general elections in the absence of criticism and observation of how the elections would have been run.

Government recently said it would deregister at least 450 mainly dormant NGOs.

In the State of the Nation Address delivered in October last year, Mnangagwa announced that a law would be crafted to regulate civil society organisations, which he accused of operating outside their mandate, and not in sync with government priorities.

He said Parliament would consider the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill to revamp the administration of NGOs and PVOs “to correct the current anomalies”.

Apart from offering humanitarian assistance, NGOs offer employment to a significant number of locals. Newsday

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