JOINT CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS PRESS RELEASE ON THE NGO ACT IMPLEMENTATION
We, the undersigned Civil Society Organisations are disappointed in the manner the Patriotic Front (PF) government wants to proceed in the registration of the NGOs under the NGO law that is depraved and lack credibility.
It is worth-noting that we, the Zambian Non-Governmental Organisations, do not oppose the idea of being regulated by an Act of Parliament. The position of Non-Governmental Organisations is that the legislation ought to be used to enhance transparency, accountability and independence of Non-Governmental Organisations so that Civil Society Organisations could increase space in their operations and existence, which is not the case in the current state of the Act.
We want to remind the PF government that“there is nothing for us without us”. The move by the Minister of Community Development Mother and Child Health to appointment and launch the NGO Board with all members appointed from Government Ministries except one who is an independent Consultant is misplaced, done in bad faith and lacks credibility. This is unacceptable and we want to call upon the President, Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata to intervene in this matter as he cannot continue to remain on the terraces while the civil space continues to be muzzled by his government.
We would like to remind the PF government that while in opposition, the party sided with the CSOs in rejecting the NGO Act and we wonder what has changed in the Act now for the new government to rush for the registration of the NGOs before repealing the law. Mr. President and your government, we as Civil Society are not demanding anything from your government which is outside of your promises to the Zambian People and Civil Society in particular:
The PF Manifesto states:
“Civil society organisations and the State is essentially fraught with suspicion, antagonism and conflict due to lack of appreciation by the MMD government of the role of the civil society as a partner in national development. Consequently the civil society has found it difficult to play its meaningful role in the area of social justice, good governance and national development.
In order to enhance the role of the civil society and its relationship with the State the PF government shall:
- Recognize the State and civil society as mutually interdependent and complementary partners in national development;
- Guarantee the active participation of civil society in matters of social justice and good governance;
- Promote constant dialogue between the State and the civil society;
- Review the Non-Governmental Organizations Act of 2009 so as to promote the above”
We therefore want to remind your Government that you have strayed away from your plans to better the relationship between the State and the Civil Society Organisations. As Civil Society Organisations we are willing to cooperate with your government once your government commits itself to implementing its own promises to the people of Zambia as reflected in your Party Manifesto, 2011-2016.
a) Enforcement and implementation of the NGO Act has potential to violate some of Zambia’s Human Rights obligations particularly the “Right to freedom of Association” as well as the “Right to Freedom of Assembly” as guaranteed under the Zambian Constitution, as well as under its international Human Rights obligations as a State Party to instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
b) The NGO Act in its current form is fundamentally fraud and a threat to Civil Society Organizations’ space and growth in Zambia. We have observed that the NGO Act, in its current form fails short of promoting the growth of civil society space as it is framed more on the micro-managing of Non-Governmental Organisations rather than facilitating the same in Zambia.
c) The NGO Act is erroneously premised on the assumption that Non-Governmental Organisations prior to the Enactment of the Act existed in a vacuum. However, Non Governmental Organisations have been in existence for a long period in Zambia and duly regulated under various Acts of Parliament such as the Societies Act (Chapter 119 of the laws of Zambia), the Companies Act (Chapter 388 of the laws of Zambia) and the Lands (Perpetual Succession) Act (Chapter 186 of the laws of Zambia). Accordingly, any Non Governmental Organizations’ registration under the NGO Act ought to be in full compliance of respective Acts of Parliament it is registered under.
d) In line with (c) above, the NGO Act is not clear on what will be done to other legal institutions to which the NGOs are currently registered to. The ministry of Community Development has not guided properly and are in conflict with other statutory bodies. To make the matters worse, most NGOs have already paid fees for their annual returns to government and as NGOs we cannot afford to pay fees towards registration legalities twice in a year, which we have already satisfactorily done, with registrar of Societies, PACRA and other legal bodies.
e) Government has appointment the NGO Board Members which has not included any Member from Civil Society Organisations. You should be aware that CSOs could not elect and second their representatives into NGO Board because they have rejected the NGO Act and demanded for it to be reviewed first before registration could start. This was a resolution and recommendation by the full NGO congress , the supreme body created by the Act and attended by over 300 NGOs. How then do we start overturning the resolutions of the Congress before reverting to the members first? This will be bad corporate governance and we will not want to fall into such traps.
a) Abolish the board which has been appointed to serve government interest and not the interest of the wider citizenry and the Civil Society organisation who have been positively contributing to socio-economic development of our country. No board should be operationalized before the NGO Act 16 of 2009 is reviewed as per PF manifesto provision;
b) We further wish to inform you that Civil Society Organisations will not register with a Government led NGO Board and henceforth call on our constituency, the NGOs not turn out and register under the bogus Act. There is no way we can drink the poison in expectation of deintoxication later.
c) Review the NGO Act as a matter of urgency as promised in your Party Manifesto. If this is not done, we will withdraw our members who are in the NGO Council.
|1||Lewis Mwape||Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD)||Executive Secretary|
|2||McDonald Chipenzi||Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP)||Executive Director|
|3||Goodwel Lungu||Transparent International Zambia (TIZ)||Executive Director|
|4||Fr. Chiti Leonard||Jesuit Center for Theoretical Reflection (JCTR)||Director|
|5||Andrew Ntewewe||Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)||President|
|7||Lilian Kiefer||Panos Institute of Southern Africa||Executive Director|
|8||Chilufya Tayali||Zambian Voice||Executive Director|
|9||Macha Herbert||MISA Zambia||Executive Director|
|10||Guess Nyirenda||Operation Young Vote||Executive Director|