BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
Human rights lawyers have criticised government for closing democratic space in the county to stifle the free operation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
In a statement to mark the International Day of NGOs, which is commemorated on February 27 every year, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said government was restricting the organisations from executing their duties.
Last year during the official opening of the Third Session of the Ninth Parliament, President Emmerson Mnangagwa stated that government would ensure that Parliament crafted a law to regulate NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) which were operating against government dictates.
Said Mnangagwa: “The conduct of some non-governmental organisations and private voluntary organisations (PVOs) which operate outside their mandates and out of sync with the government’s humanitarian priority programmes remain a cause for concern. This august House will, therefore, consider the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill to revamp the administration of NGOs and PVOs and correct the current anomalies.”
But the rights lawyers said it was actually government which was victimising CSOs through harassment, arbitrary arrests, intimidation, character assassination and criminalisation of their work.
They accused government of also restricting the right to assembly and association, which they said hindered the activities of NGOs and CSOs.
“NGOs play an indispensable role in the promotion and survival of democracy worldwide. They play the crucial function of fighting the abuse of power by States. They expose the violation of human rights by State actors and take legal action in order to obtain redress for the victims of the human rights violations,” ZLHR said.
“Apart from humanitarian assistance, they also provide resources and special services to persons living with disabilities, the elderly, vulnerable women and children. The advocacy work and litigation work by NGOs serve to ensure that governments remain accountable to their electorate. NGOs also provide human resources, medicines and food to victims of natural disasters across the globe.”
ZLHR said the free operation of NGOs was important to fight State impunity and to pressure governments to desist from violating human rights.