Civil society organizations (CSOs) operating under the banner of National Advocacy Platform (NAP) have petitioned President Lazarus Chakwera to withdraw Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Amendment Bill which is currently in the office of the Attorney General, fearing the provision threatens to wipe out civic space.
NAP chairperson Benedicto Kondowe said they want to meet President Chakwera to discuss issues of governance and human rights violations among other social issues which have been bedevilling the country.
The platform has consolidated outstanding and emerging governance and human rights issues into a ‘CSO Grand Petition 2020’.
In their petition titled ‘ Reclaiming our space, Our destity, the CSOs are seeking government intervation on governance and human rights, including the ‘shrinking CSOspace’, corruption and inequalities and poor governance.
Kondowe said on the NGO Bill the work of the previous regime, was drafted without consulting the NGO community in the country; hence, should not be tabled or debated in Parliament.
The CSOs said proposed law proposed more powers in the way the minister deals with NGOs, creates an ‘Authority’ whose composition is suspicious as it would have appointees of the minister.
The ‘Authority’ itself, according to the proposal, would have too much power whose terms are vague and would in the long run use these powers to intimidate and stifle the civic space within which NGOs operate.
Kondowe said any law that would endanger the civic space within which NGOs operate would be undemocratic and unconstitutional.
The CSOs argue that the proposed amendment creates “a monster regulator” and coordinator of NGOs in the proposed NGO Regulatory Authority with absolute powers without accountability checks.
The NGO Act (Amendment) Bill —gazetted on November 9 2018— among others, removes the requirement for mandatory double registration and enhances the role of the NGO Board in the oversight and regulation of NGOs in Malawi.