CSOs to go to court over ‘draconian’ NGO law: Malawi flagship newspaper says they have a point

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.

Trapence: The amendments are meant to completely close the civic policy space which is undemocratic and not in national interest.

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.

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Common Sense
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Common Sense

This bill is long overdue. The government has 3 branches for checks and balances. Who checks and balances the CSO? The government gets into power legitimately through the ballot, how do the CSOs gain legitimacy?

James
Guest
James

There is no democracy without responsibility and accountability. If NGOs do whatever they do on behalf of Malawians, then they must be required to account to the same Malawians and this is what the law demands. I don’t see any problem with this law. The problem with many people is that they think DPP will be the government forever. DPP is not government. It has to win the elections to be the govenment. Otherwise any political party can form a government. So, let’s trade carefully. We can’t call this beautiful regulation a draconian law. Mind you, all mature democracies have… Read more »

frankiili
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frankiili

wina akufuna timupase mpando komaso akakala pa mpando akufuna azitidiliza for what benefit mumalo mwoti azitukula antu akufuna kudya ndalama mwosafusidwaso

faith
Guest
faith

ma cadet shut up your mouth ambiri inu osapunzira still your commenting on the issue you don’t know how this will affect Malawi in a long term picture , why should silence the NGO this totally out of date , antu ambiri tikusauka because of these systems

Bazuka
Guest
Bazuka

There is need of halting this nosense by Mr Maliseche of the Mk145 mil deal fame

BigMan
Guest
BigMan

CSO’s need regulation. If you got nothing to hide why fear regulation. We cant have the likes of Fryson Chodzi and other such CSOs for hire going around collecting money to confuse the people. Declare your sources! If government just wants to squeeze you, you will approach the courts.

Section 65
Guest
Section 65

K50,000 up to K15,000,000. Quite on the higher side. What will the money be used for?

Machende Akuwawa
Guest
Machende Akuwawa

Time of imposing laws is gone, the responsible minister must bear with the CSO at large. Malawians believe in CSOs rather than the governing body. I hope this time you will bow down and allow wider consultation with all responsible stake holders involved. Simple and straightforward, no issue here honourable minister.

Peter
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Peter

MA Ngo
Kudya mane mdzina LA ufulu

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