Livingstone, Jan 28/14, ZANIS——Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Livingstone have petitioned government to immediately halt the implementation of the NGO Act Number 16 of 2009 until all contentious issues surrounding the act are addressed.
The CSOs have also vowed not to register under the new Act by February 3, 2014, since they are already registered with the Registrar of Societies.
Presenting the petition to the department of Community Development in Livingstone today on behalf of 23 CSOs, Non-Governmental Organization Coordinating Council (NGOCC) Southern Province Liaison Officer, Faith Simukoko, said the act in its current form would hamper the work of NGOs.
“The various analyses of the NGO-Act agree that the bill in its current version not only has the potential to seriously interfere with and hamper the work of NGOs in Zambia, but its enactment and implementation will also violate fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution, ” she said.
Ms Simukoko noted that the NGO Act contained a great number of unclear provisions that allow for discretionary political configuration of the NGO landscape, the steering of individual NGOs thereby threatening the exercise of human rights such as freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to receive and disseminate information.
She charged that the most critical provisions related to the scope of application of the act, the requirement of mandatory registration, the composition and powers of the governmental regulatory body, the mandatory self-regulation by NGOs and the severe criminal sanctions that the act provides for.
Ms Simukoko highlighted the mandatory registration of NGOs and criminal sanctions for failing to do so, as highly problematic with regard to Article 21 of the Constitution of Zambia and the country’s obligations under Article 10 of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR).
“ACHPR considers the right of unregistered organizations to exist and of the right to seek registration on a voluntary basis. The guarantee of these rights is not only contained in the Zambian Constitution but also constitutes a binding legal obligation for Zambia under International Law,” she said.
Meanwhile, 23 CSOs have vowed not to register under the new Act by February 3, 2014, since they are already registered with the Registrar of Societies.
“As CSOs in Livingstone, we unanimously resolved not to register under the new Act. We are already registered with the Registrar of Societies and, therefore, we are recognized entities in Zambia. Come 3rdof February, we are not even frightened to say we are not going to register,” she said.
And Livingstone District Social Welfare Officer, Modern Simabenga, who was flanked by Community Development Officer, Masiliso Zaza, received the petition from Ms Simukoko and pledged to forward it to the provincial office in Choma.
The duo said they were too junior to comment on the matter.
Widows Association of Zambia, Welfare Concern Initiatives, Forum for Democracy and Development (FODEP), Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), CARITAS, NGOCC, National Empowerment Forum, and Platform for Youth Development are among the 23 CSOs that signed the petition.
Government initiated the NGO Bill in 2009 to, among other things, enhance the transparency, accountability and performance of NGOs but most CSOs are against the Act due to some provisions which are deemed to be undemocratic.