Ban of NGO’s in Malawi challenged: ‘Forced registration is unconstitutional’

Former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara triggered debate on social media when he challenged Malawi government through the NGO Board against shutting down non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating “without following proper procedures”, mostly those that are critical to the administration.

Kaliati (left) and  Martha Kwataine- Illegal NGOs to be shut down, they must registrer

Kaliati (left) and Martha Kwataine- Illegal NGOs to be shut down, they must registrer

Ralph Kasambara: Foreced registration unconstitutional

Ralph Kasambara: Foreced registration unconstitutional

NGO Board chair: Emiy Banda says NGOs must register or face closure

NGO Board chair: Emiy Banda says NGOs must register or face closure

Those targeted include Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with Aids (Manelera) led by Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) whose Executive Director is the vocal activist Martha Kwataine, Centre for Development of People (Cedep) under the leadership of another vocal activist Gift Trapence and Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) led by Dalitso Kubalasa amongst 320 NGOs that risk closure for failing to register with the NGO Board.

But Kasambara, now private practice lawyer and Senior Counsel (SC) took it on Facebook to argue that: “To force an NGO to register with some national authority is an unconstitutional effort as it violates freedoms of association. Hence one wonders how some NGOs will be sanctioned for failure to register with NGO Board.”

Kasambara’s post attracted many comments including from lawyer Bright Theu who had a different opinion, calling on NGOs to register their operations and be accountable.

But Kasambara stated that “laws requiring compulsory registration of NGOs and CSOs have been invalidated elsewhere. Debate about NGOs accountability and transparency is not an easy one. And indeed compulsory registration is not the panacea”

In his opinion, Chiza Nyirongo posted that the NGO Board was created with” ill intentions” by politicians.

“My take is it has actually done nothing apart from pocketing money even from small NGOs. In true sense, we needed to have one such body, free from interference! CONGOMA already does that,” he wrote.

Gender Minister Patricia Kaliati said rattled the sabres of banning the operations of NGOs during a Gender Links summit.

“These are the same NGOs that are very rude,” said outspoken Kaliati.

“We will give them 30 days to register [with NGO board] failing which they will have their organisations closed,” said the influential minister.

But law scholar Sunduzwayo Madise argued: “In fact the fundamental question is what does ‘registering’ with the NGO Board mean? And what does the Minister mean that they will be ‘deregistered’ and cease operations? I fail to see how a minister of gender can ‘de register’ an entity registered/incorporated under the companies act or trustees act.”

NGO Board chairperson Emily Banda insist that NGOs should register to be “transparent and accountable”, saying they are still getting tax exemptions.

Rev MacDonald Sembereka whose NGO is one of the targeted one for closure, said there is no NGO that refuses to be accountable, saying “there is an ill motive to silence people”.

Commentators say the Peter Mutharika government wanted to copy the Robert Mugabe strategy which banned all NGOs operations in Zimbabwe on June 4, 2008.

The say such retrogressive development is a microcosm of DPP’s grand plan to shut down any organisation perceived to be pro-people and pro-democracy.

The development has begged more questions than answers.

In a country where unemployment is high, why would any sane person worsen people’s plight by chasing away traditional and all-weather employers such as NGOs?

How many professionals and non-professionals in the past couple of years have ended up with a reasonably lucrative job courtesy of these NGOs that are now being treated as if they were enemies of the state?

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50 thoughts on “Ban of NGO’s in Malawi challenged: ‘Forced registration is unconstitutional’”

  1. cecilia mthuzeya phiri says:

    what Ralph is saying is what the law says enawa kungozolowera speaking, my fellow Malawians lets learn to follow what the constitution nsays osangoti kuti anthu atitame…. kaliati behave………….

  2. nyavizwazwa says:

    God aunt Pat ndiye kuti ana Marthawa akukutenthetsani kwambiri eti?

    Nanga CONGOMA ntchito yake ndi chiani? chabwino ka NGO ka mubagi akachita register kungati?

    We are grateful with what Martha does. And to say the fact she does not favour any person or ogranisation but she stands on the truth. Why hate her? Keep up Malita

  3. mbuya says:

    Nkhani ndi ya federalism, aliense apite azikagwira ntchito ku chigawo chakwawo and all companies azizapereka nsonkho ku ma regional states……tigawanepo apa aliense azikasokosera kwawo… at the aouthern tip we will form our own stategov and vote for independence and then join either Mosco or Zim…..

  4. kanyimbi says:

    Why should an NGO register as a company? May I be schooled the meaning of company?

  5. Mwini Dziko says:

    Ignorance is indeed a disease in Malawi. Anthu osaphunzira kwao mkunyada, maka akapeza ka phone ka internet, nde kuonetsa umbuli onse.
    What these learned pipo like Ralph & Sunduzwayo are highlighting is that these NGOs are already registered either under Trustee Incorporation Act or Companies Act. This means there are already monitoring mechanisims in the law by which they were registered.,
    Forcing them to join a government association wud indeed be unconstitutional.
    Poor Kaliati?????? go back to school coz anzanu analipo mmbuyomu but they failed.

  6. Kenkkk says:

    I don’t think people are against registration but are against forced registration accompanied by threats. They are against the reason given for registration being for accountability purposes. Accountability and registration are not the same. Where they register or not, still the NGOs are accountable.

    The NGOs accountability is to the funders not the registering authority or the govt unless some of the NGOs are govt funded. The majority of NGOs are not govt funded and it is their respective Funders who have their own ways of assessing accountability.

    As it has been pointed out most of them are registered by congoma or even by the charity’s commission if we have one, who are suppose to monitor their work and conform to their regulations. Having said that, their ultimate accountability still remains with their funders.

  7. mpopoma says:

    Mupange utsiru wanuo. You see Raphael carrying out the day. Where are you going to get the powers to deregister the NGO. Umbili bwanja..abale. Raphael has highly studied the law. Sakunama ameneyu?

  8. Kasambara Just needs attention. A learned fool, against useless professors.


    Nophiya Mmesa Mumati Anakubelanso Mavoti Nde Anavoteledwanso?

  10. kariba says:

    Akaliati mwayambapo????? Mumavesa chisonitu paja mukagwa my mtengo

  11. Zanga pheee says:

    Comment number 12 u must think b4 writting ur stupid comment,takulakwilani chani ife ma southerners,if ur educated people why don’t u change malawi to become rich,anthu ozindikira ndiakumwelako bcoz kwawo kotukuka,mwaiwala munkati ndiphunzire ndikaone blantyre mwachangamuka eti?kasambala ndi mbava,wokupha komanso wa ziphuphu ndiye ife sitingaikile kumbuyo zimenezi achite regestering akuopa chani?musamatinyanse tukulani kwanu konyansako mumathawilanjiko,musaiwaile kuti ndi DPP yomweyi imene inakuganilaniko anthu osayamika inu mudya ma kupusa kwanuko.

  12. Vikhumbo Chiumia says:

    Point of correction, ACCOUNTABILITY does not necessarily only mean finances – vizungu kumadzimvetsa bwino-bwino. This move by the government has been long over due, these NGO’s most of them are indeed operating illegally. A lot of their leaders are failures in society, who cannot get a job hence indulging in self-paying ventures like their useless clubs. If you check you will notice that some of them duplicate responsibilities instead of merging, reason being SADYERA. When they come for registration they must also bring with them their terms of service and NGO specificity, failing which they should be barred and let them go operate in their villages. Why are they fond of fault finding and not bringing up solutions? In everything there must be sanity, which unfortunately lacks in these NGOs of ours.

  13. dreamteam says:

    It’s a very weird argument. So we have to register companies but we should not register NOT – maybe someone can explain why. And please don’t tell me it’s because they employ people – how many people does CEDEP, MANARELLA Employ in Malawi.

    The same NOT that shout loudest about rule of law don’t want to follow the rules

  14. Malingamoyo says:

    Shame to you Kasambwala,how could you defend unregistered NGOS to operate with impunity in our country?I think the government should be suspicious with you,incase you are an Ashabab member.

  15. nyams says:

    waal malawians!had i known hinders most.on your way up be gud to the pple u meet coz u gonna meet them coming down

  16. Ndatopanazo says:

    Ishiiii!!!! Malawi ikuvutika ndi mbava bwanji!!!!

  17. Gulugufe says:

    I think Ralph wayamba misala.

    Can he refuse to register with the law society citing freedom of association?

    The stupid arguments being advanced will bring anarchy in this country because terror organization or extremist religious groups like Al Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS will find it easy to operate here.

    Iwe Ralph Kasambara

  18. petros mbale says:

    Interesting so our learned Malawi lawyers want NGOs not to follow the law so what about those who are following and adhering to the NGO law which was passed by the Act of Parliament as a regulator ??????

  19. frank kaponda says:

    Very sorry

  20. ARICHO says:

    Why now a Bongololo a DPP munali kuti

  21. decent citizen. says:

    Some Ngos are just as thieves as crooked Dpp opportunists masquerading as politicians.This issue is about a thief hunting a fellow thief.With the high level of poverty in Malawi everybody is fighting to fill his,her pocket with the donor money.People have built mansions,bought expensive cars all claiming to be fighting for the impoverished Malawians.Politicians kaya ndi a NGO aliyense ndipodyera.Nobody should be claiming to be fighting for is for everyman for himself.Pano ndi wasala wasala.If you wait for others to change your lives,you will wait forever and forever.

  22. kenkkk says:

    What accountability is this stupid Kaliati talking about? These NGOs have annual accounts,why don’t you scrutinise their accounts. Registering has nothing to do with accountability.

    If they don’t pay taxes,then that is a very good reason for the tax authority to examine NGOs accounts and verify how their money has been spent and they should be tax exempt.

    If the govt instils good governance and refrains from corruption there will be no noises from human rights NGOs.Kaliati, so please try to understand these simple observations.

  23. Sapitwa says:

    We register for political parties, churches,companies, schools… Just every organization occupying a public space gets registered.
    Failure to register renders you the owner operating illegally. This is Clear and no need to debate about.

  24. GRM says:

    What is wrong with registration? What is NGOs hiding? Transparency and accountability are cornerstones of Good governance. If government cannot check them who can? There is big time cashgate in NGOs

  25. Murotiwa mkhupe says:


  26. chefourpence says:

    Tumbukas Tumbukas! 99% of these NGOs are Tumbuka led or infested or Northish if you like: all this noise emanates from a tribal virus in our socitey. Tumbukas. Selfish! Thieves! Delusioned! Evil!

  27. Rabson says:

    Call a spade a spade these so called ngo’s r jst money making machines 4 these disgruntled and jobless creatures disguised as directors or perhaps to be more realistic managing directors! So hark! And register simple!

  28. Yamikani says:

    Wina munthu wina chidole pamenepa.

  29. mphwache wa bingu says:

    Martha and other guys just register your NGOs. What are you fearing?

  30. fredpa says:

    mixing leadership and madness will take you to graves.Stop these noise and nonsense,you are an illegal goverment,malawians didnt vote for you.Are you out of your mind kaliat,you are telling me that you were not areall teacher but amanufactured teacher.How will you deregister an NGO that is not registered.Dont force the NGO’s because according to the rights and freedoms enshrined in our constitution they can choose or not to be part of the NGO board

  31. Kes says:

    Nzelu za umuthu maw a kasambala it seems ndi zero.
    No wonder he is facing an attempted murder charge. I would advise him to put his focus on his murder and money laundering cases.
    The politic dynamics have changed now, this thug is irrelevant to the landscape.
    Please nyasatimes quiz him why he wanted to murder mphwiyo.

  32. Nivindele says:

    I hate DPP in its totality. It’s a party of fools to be honest with you

  33. Achimidzimidzi says:

    Emily Banda, as a Baord Chair you are very stupid. How can you deregister your own NGOz. Whats does CONGOMA do?

    Somehow, it is not making sense,there should be someone driving this board to do that and for a reason.

    By the way how are members appointed. Are the board members from same NGOz.

  34. mphini za mutchafu says:

    Close them if they will not register human rights are not absolute they are suject to limitations. Ngos have to comply and respect national laws kasambara akunamizana kalembetseni kslaliati salankwa akakusekerana timagulu tanuto

  35. powder says:

    kasmbara saziwa ndani kuti ndi mbava! now mbava ingavomere kuti mbava zonse ziziphedwa?

  36. Moses says:

    Is it true that mouth shape and ‘NDATA’ correlate in women? Compare and contrast the women in pictures.

  37. Tuyun says:

    Ignorance is the best food of southerners, but taking themselves as they know everything while your eyes you short sighted people.These NGO’s and CSO’s have got very educated people than you broggy people ,They are taking a big role in our democracy and you can’t tell them what to do.

  38. Benson Chirwa says:

    They are already registered with CONGOMA so what is the noise about? Kaliyati, funsani ena.

  39. Nyapini Kuchanya says:

    They need to register as a gvt law.why refusing,which means their org.has a mistake.

  40. Jelbin mk says:

    Let them try to do that the government will face mass protests again and court injunctions will emanate because in every DPP led government democracy is upheld by courts and people are protected by the courts but not with judges such as kenyata and Mbendera. DPP is bitter with everyone who led to the stopping of abuse of NAC funds so this is some sort of a retaliation because they wanted to still from NAC indefinitely but now they are frustrated hence duplication of projects in the 2015/2016 budget by thief Goodal Gondwe and unfortunately the enlightened MPs saw it from a distance,sorry DPP you can try all tricks but if God is to the side of the poor masses then your tricks will yield nothing I mean nothing at all.

  41. mtumbuka selfish dog says:

    I didn’t vote for mtambo or kwataine or any cso leader for that matter as such these idiots should stop claiming that they represent me or any Malawian!

    1. Nophiya says:

      This filth can only come from DPP. Of course, the NGOs do not represent each single Malawian – they don’t have to. Remember that APM was voted for by only 36% of Malawian voters; the remaining 64% of us have made peace with the fact that APM will be president up to 2019.

      Why can’t APM also make peace with the fact that some NGO’s will mostly be critical of him? Failure to do so will only lead to unwanted stress for him. Why in God’s name can’t APM and DPP learn lessons from their misrule between 2009 and 2012? Why does DPP go out of its way to trample on the rights of Malawians?

  42. Big brain says:

    NGO s get money to develop this country but they steal big time idiots we should also investigate them !!!!’

  43. Zidura Ntengo Undigwere says:

    People, people! In countries where the money that funds our NGOs comes from, NGOs are required to register! This is for many legal and ethical reasons. Very good reasons.
    The anti-registration movement must have ulterior motives, no less. What is wrong with transparency, especially when you are handling money that was given to you to help others? And, repeating myself here for emphasis, when the money was not yours, in the first place? Sinister ulterior motives baasi (the only explanation) !
    Malawi government: do NOT waiver on this. And Akweni, continue showing your doggedness. The public, as reflected in bao players, is solidly behind this principle. The proposal is a winner. Politically, morally, legally and what have you.

  44. mtumbuka1 says:

    This dpp govt is sickening as if they are a legitimate government. Are we going to put up with this shit till 2019 as a country?? God forbid.

  45. Green grass says:

    One of the pictures above features the faces of Kaliati and Kwataine. Which face looks more noisy?

  46. Rodriguas Latata says:

    Big lesson to Malawians. You employ a workers then they turn to be bosses to haunt you. This utter nonsens.
    Why do we entrust these thugs with so much power and authority?

  47. Alungwana says:

    If they are not registered how will you deregister them? Patricia Kaliati is just a joker

    1. zte says:

      ha ha ha

  48. THE WISE ONE says:

    Let Kaliati wipe off the layers of makeup on her face so that she faces reality on the ground. The heavy make up obscures her thinking and vision.

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