Zimbabwe: Who controls NGOs? by Edward Rogers SJ

Zimbabwe has a long-standing tradition of active non-governmental organisations (NGOs) of every type, and typically some have been receiving funds directly from overseas donors rather than via the state. The Zimbabwe government threatens to introduce legislation to halt this. However, it should distinguish between NGOs that assist opposition parties, and the majority of NGOs. The law already requires NGOs to submit their Constitutions for approval and accountability, and to present annual audited accounts to the Registrar. NGOs in violation can be de-registered or prosecuted. NGOs for their part should not get involved in party politics. Human rights organisations are a difficult case, however, as they must criticise violations of human rights whether by government or by opposition. During the Smith regime, the Catholic Church?s Justice and Peace Commission published reports on atrocities, and in the early 1980s our current President, Robert Mugabe, praised the Commission?s stand. He thanked the Commission and said ?that we expect you to criticise us, too, if we go wrong.? The National Association of NGOs (NANGO) is working out a code of ethics for NGOs which it hopes to implement soon. Government should welcome the work of NGOs who have done much to help develop the country and be prepared to work with them, rather than legislate in a way which may restrict their work with people in need. [HL21104]