Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have condemned government’s attempts to close down human rights NGOs through its draconian proposed Bill.
The CSOs expressed concern over Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Amendment Bill of 2018 which, among others, seeks to amend the NGO Act by establishing an authority which aims at tightening the noose around the neck of CSOs.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Timothy Mtambo said note with great concern the imminent threat inherent in the intended piece of legislation which endangers the existence of civil society.
The Malawi Gazette supplement dated November 9 2018 containing a published the bill .
“The bill seeks to achieve this by removing the reference to a non-statutory established institution the Council for Non-Governmental Organisations (Congoma) and allow the membership of that organisation to become voluntary.
“The bill further removes all statutory responsibilities of Congoma and rightly places those responsibilities under the board,” reads part of the bill.
But Mtambo said the introduction of the law by the government is repressive and the objective is to infringe the civic space.
He said if the Bill is passed into law, it makes it mandatory for all charities, NGOs and community-based associations to register under a government-controlled authority.
Many fear this will allow the Malawi government to deny accreditation to organisations likely to question its human-rights record.
“This is an effort to shrink citizen’s voice to demand accountability from the government, this is a repressive law that is against the constitutional and international best practices of NGO laws.
“There is no way they would come up with an amendment to an existing law without doing thorough consultations with the stakeholders involved. The HRDC will be meeting with the entire NGO community, we are going to work with Congoma to ensure that this does not take place,” Mtambo said in quotes reported by Malawi News on Saturday.
The bill further states that government will appoint people into NGO Regulating Authority which will comprise 11 members.
“The NGO Act is amended by deleting the definition of board and replacing it with Authority. The Authority shall consist of 11 members who shall be citizens of Malawi and appointed by the minister,” reads part of the bill.
HRDC Vice-Chairperson Gift Trapence faulted government for putting in place a provision of the minister to be the appointee of members of the authority.
“In this law, they want government to appoint people into the NGO Regulating Authority. It means they can even appoint party zealots. NGO Board should be appointed by NGO members only just like it is with the case of the Malawi Human Rights Commission,” he said.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, is quoted as saying that government is not targeting anyone arguing “ there is no law that is made without consultation.”
Tembenu said the legislation want to make CSOs accountable.
“They do things in the name of Malawians, so we want them to account for that,” he said.
The bill is expetced to be discussed during the next Parliament meeting scheduled for Monday.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :