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.
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?Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :