Civil society organisations (CSOs) say they will go to court to block the implementation of NGO (Amendment) law should government table the contentious Bill in the National Assembly and Parliament passes it.
Gift Trapence, vice chairman of Human Rights Defenders said the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Amendment Bill of 2018 is draconian law and can only fit in one party dictatorship set up not in a democratic Malawi.
“In this era, we cannot have such a law, we will not allow it to be implemented in Malawi,” said Trapence.
Among others, the bill provides that the NGO Board will now be turned into a commission whose members will be appointed by a cabinet minister.
Currently, NGOs elect members to the board.
The bill also provides that the current penalty for NGOs who flout the law be raised from K50 000 to K15 million.
Over 400 NGOs from all over the world have since asked the government to withdraw the bill and make proper consultations before tabling it, saying the law would limit civil liberties.
Legislators Lucious Banda from Balaka north (UTM) and Jessie Kabwila of Salima north west (MCP) say they will vote against the bill should the government bring it in this meeting of parliament.
The bill is appearing on order paper, parliament’s detailed business of the day.
However, Minister of Information Henry Mussa said those against the bill should have done so before it was presented to parliament for debate.
“This is a bill that has gone through scrutiny at the ministry of Justice and cabinet approved it, the government cannot withdraw it,” he said.
Mussa said those against it can lobby parliamentarians to refer it to the relevant committee of parliament for further scrutiny and make changes where necessary.
There has been animosity between the Democratic Progressive Party led government and civil society groups on a number of issues, including the government’s decision to stop peaceful protests.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) chief whip in Parliament Lobin Lowe, who is Lilongwe Rural Central legislator, said the Bill must fall: “In principle, we can say this Bill takes away freedoms of the civil society and if we make our final stand on this matter, chances are high that we will stop this Bill.”
Meanwhile, a leading Malawi daily newspaper, The Nation, in its editorial comment on Tuesday backed the CSOs, saying they have a point in expressing reservations with the proposed amendment to the NGO Act.
The paper said gone are the days when the Executive would just decided on an issue and make it law without giving it the benefit of inclusivity and the democratic process of genuine consultations.
“We support calls that the proposed amendment should be pended to allow wider consultations for the benefit of the people it seeks to serve,” the paper said.
It pointed out that in the absence of input from the stakeholders, it cannot claim to truly represent and promote the collective interests and concerns of CSOs and all the people of this country.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :