EDITORIAL COMMENT: Rogue NGOs damage civic society

16 Jul, 2021 - 00:07 0 Views
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Rogue NGOs damage civic society President Mnangagwa

The Herald

The latest warnings given by President Mnangagwa on rogue non-governmental organisations seeking to trash Zimbabwe, prevent development or use methods outside those permitted in the Constitution to change Government need to be taken seriously.

Such organisations exist, we all know that, and if after a proper investigation and with the rule set out in the laws followed they are de-registered many will cheer.

This is not to say that non-government organisations are intrinsically bad, or at least dubious, or that criticism of Government or the desire to seek legal or political change are to be disparaged.

For a start many non-governmental organisations do sterling work, filling gaps that really do need to be filled, mobilising support for new ideas and new concepts, acting as pressure groups while exercising their constitutional rights and generally working to try and make Zimbabwe a better country.

For a start, any church, or mosque, Hindu temple, synagogue or other religious group that wants to move outside the pure worship field into the wider society has to operate under the law governing non-governmental organisations. 

And they do an incredible amount of good work between them in health, education providing relief and ameliorating suffering. 

They frequently are chosen as the conduit for similar organisations in other countries to channel funds and aid. Obviously if a major, say Catholic, donor wanted to do something useful in Zimbabwe they would see the local bishops, or a religious organisation or a local Catholic organisation as the obvious group on the ground. 

So foreign funding cannot mar a non-governmental organisation.

We have others operating openly with clear agendas to improve Zimbabwe, even if they have to struggle to get new concepts accepted. 

For example there is an active group of women lawyers who not only intervene in individual cases involving women, but want to see legal changes that improve the lives of women or groups of women and end what they see as discriminatory practices.

In their latest and most recent attack on the existing law they are trying to get the divorce laws extended to include a right of courts to intervene in property distribution when an unregistered customary union is dissolved, a very simple process that they feel, with a lot of justification, hits women. 

With the delays in getting the new Matrimonial Bill through Parliament, they have now turned to getting the divorce laws changed. And why not.

A great deal of our environmental law is a direct result of decades of action by fairly small groups of exceptionally committed people who have mobilised support, have argued and lobbied. 

Even the latest stress on wetland conservation started off with a handful of concerned people who changed an entire culture from draining swamps to preserving natural habitats.

So another group of non-governmental organisations have made Zimbabwe a better place. 

No one says that the organisations have to be popular. Zimbabwe does not have an active LGBTQ+ lobby organisation, for example, and it might well face cultural opposition and some heavy weather. But there is nothing to block such a non-governmental organisation and members would be exercising their legal and constitutional rights. 

Other have been sharply critical of the Government, or more precisely of Government actions, sometimes, in many people’s opinion, unfairly. But they are operating openly and transparently, seeking to improve Zimbabwe, so their heart is in the right place. 

And sometimes they have some rather good ideas that enter the mainstream of society and get changes they desire and others gradually want.

Sometimes a non-government organisation might be felt to be wasting time and money. For example there is one activist in a small organisation that has made it clear he does not want the present Chief Justice to serve another five years.

But he is operating within the law, using the law in fact, and if his funders are okay with him spending their money on legal bills, well it is their money. So he is no rogue, just someone with a fixed idea.

Political opposition is not just tolerated in Zimbabwe, it is a constitutional right of any citizen or group of citizens to seek election and a change of Government. But it has to be done in the open, using the legislative system and laws, and basically involves getting a lot of voters to agree with you when marking their ballots every five years during a general election. This is called democracy.

As a matter of practicality, as well as ethics, it is difficult to understand those who want to pull Zimbabwe down, such as by appealing for sanctions, in an effort to make things as difficult and as intolerable as possible to try and garner support.

The democratic process surely involves trying to persuade voters that you will do the good things better and change other things or change priorities. And the more functioning your country if you take over, the easier that is.

In any case, voters like to see some track record in this modern age. Just an example, if the MDC formations, and some do indulge in dubious practices, worked on fixing things where they have control and had support in the last election, rather than trying to smash the country, they might do better. 

But right now promising to run Zimbabwe just as Harare is run is not an obvious vote winner.

So generally, the community of non-government organisations, civic society as it is often called these days, do good work and at least do not harm. But as President Mnangagwa noted, there is a small minority who shelter behind the magic phrase “civil society” to operate behind the scenes in the dark to damage and destroy. And they should not have the shelter of the law on non-government organisations.

If they want change, fair enough. But they should have the honesty to stand in the open, campaign for their changes and use the normal and legal political processes to gather support. But perhaps they know they are failures and so want to maim and destroy to make everyone else a failure.

Share This:

Sponsored Links