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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cecilia mthuzeya phiri
cecilia mthuzeya phiri

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………….


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


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…..


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

Mwini Dziko

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.

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… Read more »

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?

box13 bilila NU

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


Nophiya Mmesa Mumati Anakubelanso Mavoti Nde Anavoteledwanso?


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

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