"The National Association of Non Governmental Organizations, representing over 1000 NGOs in Zimbabwe, would like to state that the NGO bill is unacceptable to the NGO community. NANGO is disappointed that many of the amendments that had been submitted by NGOs to Government and Parliament were out rightly rejected. It is therefore difficult to envisage how NGOs are expected to comply under the new law given the restrictions placed on every part of their work. Various clauses in the NGO Bill will result in the shutting down of the majority of NGOs. For example under the proposed NGO Law [Non Governmental Organisations Bill-H.B.13, 2004], NGOs will not be allowed to receive foreign funding for activities that include the promotion and protection of human rights and issues of governance. This therefore threatens the work of NGOs, given that there is no local funding. Even the recently presented 2005 Budget estimates have not shown significant contributions to welfare organisations. The work that NGOs do in the promotion and protection of human rights include:- Child Rights; Women’s Rights; Rights of people living with HIV and AIDS; Rights of people with disabilities; Freedom of expression, association and assembly, and the Right to development." Click on the link below for statements from a range of Zimbabwean human rights groups.
Statement on the passing of the NGO Bill by Parliament
The National Association of Non Governmental Organizations, representing over 1000 NGOs in Zimbabwe, would like to state that the NGO bill is unacceptable to the NGO community. NANGO is disappointed that many of the amendments that had been submitted by NGOs to Government and Parliament were out rightly rejected. It is therefore difficult to envisage how NGOs are expected to comply under the new law given the restrictions placed on every part of their work.
Various clauses in the NGO Bill will result in the shutting down of the majority of NGOs. For example under the proposed NGO Law [Non Governmental Organisations Bill-H.B.13, 2004], NGOs will not be allowed to receive foreign funding for activities that include the promotion and protection of human rights and issues of governance. This therefore threatens the work of NGOs, given that there is no local funding. Even the recently presented 2005 Budget estimates have not shown significant contributions to welfare organisations.
The work that NGOs do in the promotion and protection of human rights include:- Child Rights; Women’s Rights; Rights of people living with HIV and AIDS; Rights of people with disabilities; Freedom of expression, association and assembly, and the Right to development.
Clause 17 of the Bill states that no local non-governmental organisation shall receive any foreign funding or donation to carry out activities involving or including issues of governance- defined as the promotion and protection of human rights and political governance issues. It is mind boggling why Zimbabwe should have a law which:
1.. Violates the National Constitution?
2.. Will result in significant decrease of overseas development assistance to the country?
3.. Contradicts the current national economic recovery programme?
4.. Negates the values that we collectively assumed as a nation at independence?
5.. Will tarnish the image of the country?
6.. Will result in further losses of employment?
7.. Result in the closure of companies especially those in the hospitality, banking, stationery and printing sector, to mention a few?
8.. Result in Zimbabwe failing to meet the Millennium Development Goals?
9.. Will result in loss of confidence in the government by the electorate?
10.. Will scare away organizations willing to support community programmes that benefit the marginalized?
The new law will take away the right of citizens to freely associate, assemble, express themselves thereby undermining the universally accepted concepts of participatory development. Coming as it does on the international day for human rights the bill when read with the recently enacted laws for example the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting and Services Act, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission bill, can only buttress the perception that the government is probably not committed to promotion and protection of human rights. Is this what the government wants?
The mandate of NANGO is to promote, coordinate and organize the participation and contributions of NGOs in the social, economic and political development of the people of Zimbabwe.
Technical and other support
NANGO, being the umbrella body and voice of NGOs in Zimbabwe is available to offer NGOs any support, within its mandate and capacities, on issues to do with the NGO Bill. Do not hesitate to contact us on the NGO Bill hotline 263-4-732612 or email [email protected]
Statement on the Occasion of Human Rights Day
By Participants in the African Civil Society Consultation on Zimbabwe
December 8, 2004
We, the undersigned, represent over thirty church-based groups, human rights organizations, and women’s rights organizations from Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia and Kenya who gathered in Gaborone, Botswana, in August 2003 to discuss the human rights situation in Zimbabwe during the African Civil Society Consultation on Zimbabwe. We hoped that concerted, regional pressure on the government of Zimbabwe would result in significant improvements in the protection of basic human rights for our Zimbabwean neighbors. In fact, it appears that the Zimbabwean government is acting to abridge basic freedoms now more than ever.
We write today to express our deep regret that in the last year the human rights and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe has significantly deteriorated. On the occasion of Human Rights Day, December 10, 2004, we renew our call for an immediate end to all human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
Of urgent concern to us as civil society organizations in the southern African region is the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill 2004. The Zimbabwean Parliament is currently considering the bill during rushed sessions despite a determination by Parliament’s legal committee that it is unconstitutional. If it passes into law in the coming days, the Zimbabwean government will have broad powers to close NGOs such as church-based charities and human rights organizations. Church leaders have spoken out against this proposed measure which will prevent them from providing critical humanitarian aid to Zimbabweans. Dozens of women were arrested and jailed while marching across Zimbabwe to protest the bill. It is essential that charitable organizations and independent human rights organizations are able to function in Zimbabwe, which is fraught with violence and starvation, without threat of closure. It is not too late to stop the bill from becoming a law. We call on the government of Zimbabwe to uphold conditions that allow independent non-governmental organizations to function.
We understand that the Zimbabwean government is expected to impose harsher restrictions on journalists than currently exist. The law will likely deter journalists – including journalists from our countries – from reporting on the human rights crisis in Zimbabwe. Governments and organizations in the region have much at stake in the continuing decline of human rights in Zimbabwe and it is in all of our interest to have access to balanced and accurate information. We ask that the Zimbabwean government permit independent journalists to report on conditions in Zimbabwe.
We are also concerned that Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections, planned for March 2005, will be conducted unfairly. With reduced media coverage and NGO monitoring, intimidation or attacks on the voting population by government-sponsored militia could increase in the next few months. Elections must be conducted fairly and freely to bring legitimacy to the results and stability to the country. It is in the best interest of regional organizations, governments and civil society that Zimbabwe foster democracy and the rule of law. External monitors could help to encourage a democratic election process, and we ask that Zimbabwe to open its doors to regional and international monitors.
At this critical moment for Zimbabwe’s people, we reiterate our demands for protection of human rights from the Concluding Statement from the African Civil Society Consultation in 2003 as well as the statement we issued at the end of 2003 calling on our own governments to intervene in the Zimbabwean crisis. We are disturbed that the Zimbabwean government intends to further repress the work of non-governmental organizations which monitor human rights violations and provide critical humanitarian assistance to a country entering an election period and a food shortage crisis. We seek urgent action by regional governments and institutions, as well as the international community, to end serious human rights violations in the country.
Finally, we express our support for and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, and for all those who are striving for respect for basic human rights in the country.
Zimbabwe Youth Democracy Trust
Human Rights Institute for South Africa
Braamfontein, South Africa
Amnesty International South Africa
Zimbabwe Advocacy Campaign
Dobsonville, South Africa
Civil Liberties Committee
Active Youth Initiative for Social Enhancement
Institute for Policy Interaction
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation
DITSHWANELO – the Botswana Centre for Human Rights
Gregory Angaluki Sasita
ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM
COMMOMORATING WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
10 DECEMBER 2004
The Human Rights NGO Forum (Human Rights Forum) is a coalition of 17 member organisations. It has been in existence since January 1998 when organisations working in the field of human rights joined to provide legal and psychosocial assistance to the victims of the January 1998 food riots. The Human Rights Forum has now expanded its objectives to assist victims of organized violence. The organisation views organized violence as:
“the inter-human infliction of significant avoidable pain and suffering by an organized group according to a declared or implied strategy and/or system of ideas and attitudes. It comprises any violent action, which is unacceptable by general human standards, and relates to the victims’ mental and physical well being”.
The Human Rights Forum condemns all forms of violence, from whatever quarter, perpetrated on members of the public, including violence meted out by political parties, organized groups, ordinary citizens and so-called “retaliatory” violence.
It is therefore noted with concern that the bulk of reports compiled by the Human Rights Forum in 2004 indicate that violence continues to be perpetrated by state agents, youth militia or members of the ruling party and the opposition as a means of political intimidation.
As Zimbabwe commemorates another World Human Rights Day, the Human Rights Forum expresses its concern over the continued violation of human rights in Zimbabwe.
10 December 1948 is the day the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which it saw as:
“a major step in the advancement of civilisation at the international and national levels”.
From then on, 10 December has come to be recognised as World Human Rights Day.
The rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have since been split into two separate International Covenants, one on Civil and Political Rights and the other on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Zimbabwe is signatory to these instruments. By being party to these, the Government undertakes to protect and uphold human rights.
A cursory examination of the protection of the human rights for the Zimbabwean populace over the period January to September 2004 paints a gloomy picture. Reports compiled by the Human Rights Forum, showing the trends for politically motivated human rights violations for the said period, record that cases of assault, abduction/kidnapping, prevention of freedom of association, political discrimination, inter-party/intra-party violence, the disruption of demonstrations led by some civil society organisations and torture were present in varying degrees throughout the months.
The Human Rights Forum commends:
v The fact-finding mission of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights(ACHPR) that visited Zimbabwe in 2002 to investigate reports of human rights violations.
v Continued efforts by various sectors of civil society to lobby Government to protect the rights of its citizens
v Police Commissioner Chihuri’s declaration that the Police Force would arrest perpetrators of violence in the forthcoming Parliamentary Elections
v President Mugabe’s public castigation of violence
v Vice President Msika’s castigation of violence in Emganwini (Bulawayo Province)
Despite the commendable efforts from various sectors to address issues of political violence, the Human Rights Forum notes with concern the continued onslaught on dissenting voices through draconian legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the impending Non –Governmental Organisations Act.
The stated object of the NGO Bill, which is about to go before the House for its Third Reading, is:
“to provide for an enabling environment for the operations, monitoring and regulation of all non-governmental organisations”.
Civil society in general views the present bill as restrictive with some of its clauses being unconstitutional.
In order to protect the human rights of Zimbabweans, the Human Rights Forum puts forward the following recommendations:
v Government should cease to pass legislation which restricts, restrains and criminalizes its citizens when exercising their constitutional rights.
v Government should create a conducive environment for the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with its international, regional and constitutional obligations.
v Government should work with stakeholders to establish a conducive environment for the conduct of free and fair elections in accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines
v Government should make every possible effort to give effect to the statement by President Mugabe in condemnation of intra-party violence that:
“security organs will show no mercy towards any aberration that detracts from our peace, stability and tranquillity “
and those by Commissioner Chihuri and Vice President Msika stated above.
A Zimbabwe in which citizens can enjoy their human rights is possible if everyone plays a role ensuring that these are protected and upheld. The Human Rights Forum urges all stakeholders to continue to advocate for the protection of the human rights of all Zimbabweans and carry out activities accordingly.