The Malawi government through the NGO Board has warned again to shut down non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating “without following proper procedures”, mostly those that are critical to the administration.
Those targeted include Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with Aids (Manelera) led by Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) whose Executive Director is the vocal activist Martha Kwataine, Centre for Development of People (Cedep) under the leadership of another vocal activist Gift Trapence and Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) led by Dalitso Kubalasa.
They are amongst 320 NGOs that risk closure for failing to register with the NGO Board.
Gender Minister Patricia Kaliati said rattled the sabres of banning the operations of NGOs during a Gender Links summit.
“These are the same NGOs that are very rude,” said outspoken Kaliati.
“We will give them 30 days to register [with NGO board] failing which they will have their organisations closed,” said the influential minister.
Kaliati warned that government would close ‘noisy’ NGOs.
She said her office was consulting with the Council of Non-Governmental Organization and other stakeholders before shutting down the ‘noisy’ NGOs.
In line with section of 20 of the NGO Act, every organisation that wishes to operate or is operating in Malawi as an NGO must register with NGO Board.
NGO Board chairperson Emily Banda said all the NGOs are aware of the NGO law that they are required to register with the board failing which they will be operating in the country illegally.
She said after the organisations are registered either under the Company Act and Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) they are also supposed to register with the Board.
“Most of the NGOS are running away from submitting their returns. Some donors lack knowledge on the existence of the law, hence they just provide funding,” Banda said, adding, “we have already written letters to all the NGOs on the matter and the board will also write them new letters to inform them on the decision which the board has made.”
Commentators say the Peter Mutharika government wanted to copy the Robert Mugabe strategy which banned all NGOs operations in Zimbabwe on June 4, 2008. But Kaliati denied the fears.
Meanwhile, Trapence whose Cedep is one of the targeted NGO for shut down because of being critical to government on human rights issues and campaigning for homosexual rights, said the NGO law is very vague and unclear.
“The NGO Act requires an NGO to be registered five times; under registrar general, under NGO board, under Congoma, under Ministry of Gender, under NGO Board, and under additional ministry for purposes of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
“For example, Congoma is a membership organisation and is not part of government but it is mentioned in the NGO Act. Secondly, registration and NGO Act is on annual basis, was that the intention of law that NGOs have to re register every year? What is the role of two government ministries? Cedep wanted clarification on this,” he said in Daily Times.
Trapence also claimed that his organisation engaged NGO Board on the matter and they admitted that the law was rushed through in parliament. He, however, said Cedep is waiting for further instructions from the NGO Board.
Kwataine has said Mehn is in the process of registering with the board.
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