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Opinion

NGOs Bill a liability to Zim

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Muleya

ZIMBABWEANS from various spheres of life but mainly MPs, civil society and the media are currently grappling with the ill-conceived Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill which could cost the country a fortune and hit poor vulnerable communities the hardest.

Government, in fact Zimbabwe, stands to lose close to US$800 million, a significant portion of the national budget, in development funding this year – with devastating social and economic consequences – if authorities persist with the folly of their repressive legislative agenda.

Studies and examples around the world have shown how countries lose development aid due to such ill-advised legislation mainly designed and calculated to silence political dissent.

Zimbabwe is an authoritarian state which thrives on suppressing dissent and curtailing democratic freedoms which were attained by blood and sweat.

There is no shadow of doubt that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s manoeuvre is about stifling civil society organisations that hold him and his officials accountable, while shrinking the democratic space to keep the country in the shadows of tyranny.

The cost of democracy and freedom is very high in countries like Zimbabwe. In this case it may cost the country US$800 million in 2022, an amount of aid which makes a huge difference in a small impoverished country like Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa may unleash a new wave of political repression, but in the end government will only succeed in cutting its nose to spite its face.

The report, titled Punching Holes To A Fragile Economy?, done by Prosper Chitambara, Clinton Musonza and Phillan Zamchiya, says the proposed law will have a far-reaching negative impact and implications not just for civil society organisations, but also for government development programmes and the poor who rely on aid for survival and access to critical social services.

“NGOs have also played a critical role in bridging the huge financing gap in the critical sectors of the economy such as social protection, education, health, water and sanitation among others,” the report says. 

“For instance, according to the 2022 national budget statement, during the period January to September 2021, the country received development assistance amounting to US$647.8 million, of which US$401.9 million was from bilateral partners and US$245.9 million from multilateral partners. 

“A further US$202.4 million in development assistance is projected during the fourth quarter of 2021, giving cumulative receipts of US$850.2 million for the year. 

“In 2022, support from the development partners is projected at US$761.5 million, broken down as US$274.3 million and US$487.2 million from multilateral and bilateral partners, respectively. Importantly, a lot of the gains that have been registered key health and social indicators have been on account of the partnership between the government and NGOs.” 

In the end, it’s very clear the Bill is a liability to Zimbabwe and its people no matter what their political views are.

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