Bill in Offing to Clamp Down On NGOs, Churches

GOVERNMENT plans to table a Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Churches Bill in a move that analysts say will allow it to clamp down on what it sees as errant operators.

The Bill, which has already been drafted and is expected to be tabled in the next parliamentary session starting in July, will allow government to have greater influence in the operations of NGOs and churches.

The Bill proposes a code of conduct for all churches involved in humanitarian aid. The monitoring of NGOs, especially those involved in food aid, "will ensure they do not mix humanitarian work with politics".

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mangwana said the Bill was aimed at dealing with churches and NGOs that were inciting people to rebel against government.

"Some NGOs and churches are causing confusion in the country because they are converting their humanitarian programmes into politics," said Mangwana. "The government cannot allow that to happen, so we are saying they should come under scrutiny where we revise all the modalities of their operations in the country. Failure to do that we are going to simply close all the doors and not allow them in this country anymore because the Bill will set out a code of conduct which they will be expected to stick to," said Mangwana in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week.

NGOs operating in Zimbabwe have been at loggerheads with government over the past three years, with government accusing them of promoting foreign interests and those of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Government two years ago ordered NGOs to register under the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act, a law that civil society blasted as "undemocratic" and too restrictive on the operations of NGOs.

MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi said the Bill reflected the "pariah state" that Zimbabwe has become.

"These are part of attempts to turn this country into a fascist state," said Nyathi. "Clearly the government has become paranoid and is trying to control virtually all aspects of life. This is how fascists or dictators behave."