By Sharleen Mohammed
CRISIS in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) chairperson Peter Mutasa has told President Emmerson Mnangagwa to appreciate the work done by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Zimbabwe.
Mutasa was responding to Mnangagwa’s threats to shut down NGOs he claimed had become wayward and were interfering in areas which they should not.
The former Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president pointed out that the country’s health and education sector among many, were being kept alive by NGOs.
He told NewZimbabwe.com Mnangagwa’s threats betrayed government’s intentions if the Private Voluntary Organisation Bill is to sail through and become law.
“Instead of seeing CSOs as enemies, the government must be thankful for the work that NGOs are playing,” said Mutasa.
“NGOs are providing for medical care, education, food security, disaster management, social security and host of other important functions.
“We are deeply concerned by that statement which clearly shows intentions of the government on the PVO Bill.
“We are supposed to be enhancing democracy by making government accountable and proffering alternatives policies. the government is neglecting.”
“This statement, therefore, is a wake-up call for citizens,” Mutasa added.
“It is a clear declaration of some marshal law of some sort. The president’s statement effectively shows that we are under a serious authoritarian regime where the constitution and constitutional freedoms and rights do not matter anymore.”
Mnangagwa’s regime adopted predecessor Robert Mugabe’s frosty relationship with NGOs with the PVO Bill interpreted by civil society leaders as being another attempt at stifling freedoms.
His government has over the past year forced NGOs to register with provincial development coordinators (PDCs) and at one point announced suspension of hundreds of them.
Mutasa called for solidarity in the wake of Mnangagwa’s comments.
“In a country where the judiciary, legislature, and other important organs of the state are compromised, CSOs remain the only sector that can provide some checks and balances.
“The citizens must therefore defend democracy and livelihoods by protecting their organisations,” he said.
The PVO Bill has provisions that seek to criminalise work of NGOs by proposing harsh penalties, including jail time of up to one year for perceived offences.
The Bill also gives the minister responsible for CSOs and trusts, powers which will enable them to interfere with the operations of these bodies.
NGOs will be required to submit their plans and work to the government, a move critics have said is aimed at curbing the operations of entities that have kept the government in check.