Stop NGO Bill that threatens people’s freedom in Malawi, urges governance expert

Governance expert and commentator  Makhumbo Munthali has called for wider consultations before tabling the newly gazetted controversial  Non-Governmental Organisations Bill whose effects  he said  will be far wider than just on NGOs as it will shrink the freedoms of Malawians and allow the government to control them.

Munthali: The bill will have devastating effects on Malawians

The proposed amendments to the NGO Act seek to repeal legal functions of the Council for NGOs in Malawi (Congoma) and upgrade the NGO Board into a sole regulatory authority with the power to fine and deregister non-compliant organisations.

The eight-page Bill going to Parliament  is repressive regulations which has been secretly drafted without consulting the human rights defenders in the country, according to Munthali.

“I would recommend that the 2018 NGO Amendment Bill should not be tabled in the current sitting of Parliament pending nationwide consultations. It is clear that government has ambushed not only NGOs and MPs but also the entire public,” Munthali told Nyasa Times in an interview.

He pointed out that the Constitution and Parliament procedures provide that adequate time should be provided after gazetting a Bill for the MPs and the entire public to give their adequate inputs to the Bills.

“However, what we have seen runs counter to the spirit and letter of the Constitution. It is a mockery and suspicious on the part of government to come up with an NGO amendment Bill which is devoid of inputs and consultation from the stakeholders whom such a law would apply like CONGOMA and other NGOs. Why the rush?

“The manner in which the government and the NGO Board have conducted this issue smacks suspicion, and only validates the fears that some stakeholders have raised that the Amendment Bill is aimed at restricting the civic space,” the governance commentator said.

He proposes that that the issue of Law reform or review around all NGO related laws including the current NGO Act of 2001 should be led or coordinated by an independent body such as the Malawi Law Commission together with Malawi Human Rights Commission “as it is now clear that neither NGO Board nor the government (Ministry of Gender and Justice) can lead such a process in the public interest and also in line with international human rights law.”

He said a Law Commission should then share recommendations and the proposed Amendment Bill to the Minister of Gender after finishing their consultations and work.

“I believe such a process would enhance credibility and trust of the process,” said Munthali.

But Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said government consulted some organisations before drafting the Bill.

Tembenu said the law reform, which prescribes fines of up to K15 million for non-compliant NGOs, would make NGOs accountable to Malawians.

Southern Africa Human Defenders Network chairperson Arnold Tsuga a lawyer who leads the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on the continent, described the NGO Bill as one of the continent’s widely adopted repressive laws to muzzle critical voices and spy on human rights defenders.

Malawi’s Human Rights Defenders Coalition Timothy Mtambo also expressed concern with the proposed law, saying it would place each and every NGO “at the whim of the government.”

Mtambo said a vibrant civil society is “essential to a functioning democracy.”

“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,” said Mtambo.

The bill is expected to be discussed during the current Parliament meeting.

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JJ Mbewe/pathfinder
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JJ Mbewe/pathfinder

Governance expert my black ass! Maudindo ongopatsidwa ndi atolankhani okugwa mamina. Well maybe NGOs and MPs, well not all MPs though are ambushed, but however you look at it, the only public that is ambushed is from zorozoro and kaning’ina. I from other side of the country i second the bill. You can’t keep on harassing and frustrating the government in order to get fund from other ant government grouping in the name of mukuyimilira amalawi. Amalawi ake ati? Mumakakomana nawo kuti kumawafunsa maganizo? I salute one great nyasatimes journalist who called a regional NGO, in one of his articles.… Read more »

Central
Guest
Central

APM and Tembenu zinazi tiyeni tizichita nazo manyazi!! I mean how do feel to be termed the architects of a law that African institutions not just Malawi should be terming and I quote: “…. a bill is one of the continent’s widely repressive laws to muzzle critical voices and spy on human rights defenders”! Zoona, nde Kamuzu uja mumamunenayu ndi inu mwasiyana pati? Za manyazitu izituuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Bingu wa Mutharika
Guest
Bingu wa Mutharika

Kodi iwe umatchedwa Makhumbo,u governance expert wake wayambika liti? ka Masters degree mwatenga dzuloko muyambe kutivuta nako? Uzanani ndi atumbukuka anzanu achina Mtambo you can not take this country hostage with your stupid human rights what what

Central
Guest
Central

cadet wachabechabe iwe……………………………! Ukufuna kuopseza ndani? Mind you nobody owns Malawi! We’re all Malawians and have equal rights to all human rights!! You will never succeed in making Malawians slaves in their own country……………………..Fotseki zakooooooooooooooo wamvaaaaaaaaaaa

Bingu wa Mutharika
Guest
Bingu wa Mutharika

These indiots think we are dumb, they will fight government left right center for nothing.To hell with your sop called human rights, muzikapanga ku Bwengu zimenezo

Dumisani
Guest
Dumisani

Zafika mupaka posakhana mitundu just because of this issue??? So it means really DPP it is about Lomwe only so the same Tumbukas you will need them on 21 May, shame on you guys,

Bingu wa Mutharika
Guest
Bingu wa Mutharika

Can you tell me why all so-called CSOs or human rights defenders are northerners? Za chamba basi! We know them and their evil plans, they are always tribalits ansd anti government ever since Kamuzu era..They only kept quiet during JB time because she is their inlaw.

James
Guest
James

Munthali, democracy goes hand in hand with responsibility of accountability. Stop politicking please and love this country for once. There is no any civilized modern democracy in which an institution or individual or any group of people have absolute power. They all go through checks and balances and always have a duty to account to the people whom they claim to serve. So, what is so special with Malawian NGOs? This law requires them to be accountable to Malawians. Is this bad? If you don’t want to be accountable to Malawians then you are not qualified to serve us. Malawians… Read more »

Heavyduty
Guest
Heavyduty

Ndiponsotu anthu amenewa akudabwitsa, they demand accountability from government and others koma iwowa sakufuna kukhala accountable to Malawians (in whose name they get funding) Most of them akuba ndalama zimene ma donor akupereka. Inu ma CSOs ndinu zitsiru mwamva. We Malawians, in whose name you get the funding, demand accountability from you now. We need you to declare how much you have gotten in our name, source of funds, how you are spending, your salaries, allowances, travel expenses etc etc. Kapena mukuopa kuti Nyumba mwayamba zija zili mu foundation stage mukanika kumaliza? DEMET. We demand accountability from anyone who claim… Read more »

Mwana wa a Nankhoma
Guest
Mwana wa a Nankhoma

MPs be careful with this and do not pass the NGO amendment bill, else you will be decampaigned to lose elections if you vote for it.

Sarudzai
Guest

Koma ma expert kumalawi achuluka. Hakwee??? Governance Expert ameneyu???

Central
Guest
Central

Nanunso inu ndi maganizo a “liime chotele anuwo” ……………….. what makes a person an expert? Nawo ati inenso ndilembekoooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Bingu wa Mutharika
Guest
Bingu wa Mutharika

As long as wapeza ka degree ka political science or PA akuti governance expert, anachita govern ndani awa?

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