Controversial NGO Bill in Zimbabwe

15 April 2005

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has refused to sign the controversial Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Bill in its present state and has referred it back for further consultations, The Standard can reveal.

Sources said Mugabe felt the NGO Bill, which was crafted largely by vindictive former Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the President's Office Jonathan Moyo and Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, was "too obnoxious" and would portray government in bad light in the eyes of the international community.

If signed into law, it will bar NGOs from receiving foreign funding for governance programs. Most NGOs depend on foreign funding for most of their programs.

The sources said Mugabe had tasked the Minister of Labor, Public Service and Social Welfare, Paul Mangwana, and Zanu PF spokesperson, Nathan Shamuyarira, to hold further consultations with civic organizations.

The Bill will be referred back to Parliament but the Zanu PF duo would be working on a parallel process, said one source.

"We have met Shamuyarira and Mangwana as civic organizations on a number of occasions and we have made our submission," said the source.

Constitutionally, a Bill lapses after 21 days of being presented to the President. The NGO Bill was passed by Parliament on 9 December 2004 and Mugabe has not signed it.

Shamuyarira confirmed that he met some NGO representatives "some four weeks ago", but he referred all questions to Mangwana.

"I can't say anything on a bill that is in Mangwana's ministry, talk to Mangwana. He will give you the story," Shamuyarira said. Magwana said: "What I know is that the Bill is still under consideration by the President."