News and Information

Zimbabwe groups fear rights law
July 24, 2004
Human rights groups in Zimbabwe have criticised a planned bill which would bar the activities of some non-governmental organisations.
The draft bill would ban foreign organisations whose aim is to promote human rights and stop foreign funding of local groups.

The Zimbabwean president earlier warned against NGOs becoming foreign agents.

A Zimbabwe human rights campaigner told the BBC that the bill, if it became law, would have devastating effects.

"The impact is not just on the NGOs," Brian Kagoro of Crisis in Zimbabwe group told the BBC World Service's Focus on Africa programme.

"The greater impact will be on the communities that were recipients of the programmes of these groups.

"It's also an impact on the employees of these entities... the non-state sector has become one of the largest employers of some of our professionals who the government has not created jobs for."

'Foreign collusion'

He said the planned legislation is being put forward by President Robert Mugabe's government in an effort to strengthen its control ahead of next year's general election.

Mr Mugabe has accused some NGOs of working with foreign countries to undermine the government.

Mr Kagoro said there was no evidence to support this claim.

"I can assure you that working to unseat the government is treason in our law... I have no recollection of an NGO or NGO leader who has been charged in the courts of law for subverting constitutional government - so the claim itself is without foundation," he said.

According to Reuters news agency, the draft says all NGOs must register with a state council and restrictions would be imposed on the activities of foreign organisations.

Specifically these relate to the "promotion of human rights and political governance issues", the draft reportedly states.

The bill can still be amended before publication and would have to pass through parliament to become law.

Source: bbc

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