The Parliament of Zimbabwe has been holding a series of public hearings on the Private Voluntary Organizations Amendment Bill that seeks to further regulate the operation of non-governmental organizations in the country.
The bill has been met with a lot of resistance from the civic society, the public, and activists who claim that the bill is a deliberate move by the government to consolidate authoritarianism.
Over the weekend, Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister, Larry Mavima was quoted saying, “How long should we continue relying on other people? The country is built by its own people. As much as possible we are now able to do a lot of things without NGOs. There was a time when NGOs were necessary. But we have to get out of this mentality. I was serious when I said ‘if there are NGOs which feel that they have something; let them go to Ukraine where there are people in need of their services because there is war,” as he was addressing a devolution meeting in Gweru.
Unfortunately, Mavima’s position is not influenced by the real situation on the ground, but by mere politics.
Despite all the efforts by the government in alleviating poverty, providing social nets and development in marginalized communities, NGOs have contributed to cover the huge gap is left.
Most of the funding from development partners have been targeted towards the provision of access to information, WASH services, infrastructure building, health services, capacity building, education, food aid, farming inputs, and strengthening social welfare.
Civil society occupies an important position in the development dialogue as it provides opportunities to bring communities together for collective action, mobilizing society to articulate demands and voice concerns at local, national, regional, and international levels.
Minister Mavima should realize that even the best of economies in the world operate alongside the civic society.
For a developing country like Zimbabwe, with almost half of the population living in extreme poverty, it is crucial to have a civic society that can fulfill important duties of checks and balances in democracies, to influence the government and hold it accountable.
Ignorance is bliss!