Malawi’s NGO Board has been receiving K250,000 as revised membership fees from local and international non-governmental organisations, defying a court injunction which restrains the board from implementing the new membership fees.
The malpractice in the collection of the fees was revealed Thursday during the 2018 annual general meeting (AGM) of the Council for Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi (Congoma) where some organisations revealed that they had paid the new fees to the board from the old fee is K50,000.
The NGO Board, which was established by an Act of Parliament to register and regulate NGOs in the country raised the fee to K250,000 in 2017 but Congoma obtained an injunction against the hike, arguing some organisations would not afford it.
The two organizations have been rocked in a protracted legal battle over the matter which is seemingly far from being concluded.
A heated debate ensued over the matter during the AGM, putting NGO Board chairperson Abigail Dzimadzi in a fix.
“We need assurance from the chairperson that organisations that paid the new fees must be reimbursed their money immediately,” demanded one delegate.
Cossam Munthali, Executive Director for Foundation for Community Support Services, chipped in: “This is a serious case of contempt of court. Why would the NGO Board do that? It is us, organisations, that will pay when the board is slapped with court fines.”
“We expect the NGO Board to operate in the interest of NGOs and lead by example in adhering to court orders,” observed Emma Kaliya, Executive Director for Malawi Human Rights Resource Center.
Dzimadzi was at pains to respond to these queries, giving answers that never satisfied the fuming delegates.
“It is up to you members to decide whether to continue paying the old fee or new one,” she said, attracting jeers of disapproval from the delegates.
Congoma chairperson Steve Duwa also blamed some organisations for paying the new fees, saying they were aiding the NGO Board to be in contempt of court.
However, the organisations argued that they acted out of fear because the board was threatening to withhold their registration certificates.
The AGM delegates later rejected Dzimadzi’s report, saying it was full of inefficiencies that needed to be rectified.
Meanwhile, the delegates elected 11 people whose names will be submitted to the Minister of Gender for appointment of seven of them into the new board of the NGO Board.
These people include Kaliya, Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe and Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Executive Director Timothy Mtambo.