In a preposterous move, Harare provincial coordinator, Tafadzwa Muguti unleashed a ban on NGOs operating in Harare who failed to heed his call for them to report to his committee.
Quoting the Policy on Operations of Non-Governmental Organizations in Humanitarian and Development Assistance in Zimbabwe, Muguti reigned on organizations operating in Harare saying “Those that that failed to comply with the request on the 30th of June 2021 shall with immediate effect be stopped by law enforcement from conducting operations whatsoever until they fully comply with the policy.”
Only 40 organizations including subtle institutions like Action Aid Zimbabwe, Goal Zimbabwe, Helpline Zimbabwe, Plan International, Legal Resource Foundation, and Pangea Zimbabwe AIDS trust among others responded positively to the request.
This move is just but one of the unending threats on the operations of the civic society from the Mugabe era inherited into the second republic.
The President, Emmerson Mnangagwa is on record, back in October last year saying some organisations were operating outside their mandates and were not in sync with the government’s humanitarian priority programmes.
Earlier this year, Zanu PF acting political commissar threatened to come down hard on NGOs, whom he accused of having a regime change agenda.
This is a familiar stance that the ruling party uses to muzzle parallel voices regarding human rights, freedom and democracy.
The work of the civil society in Zimbabwe cannot be underestimated. It ranges from capacity building, poverty alleviation, human rights elevation, providing education and even providing safety nets that the government failed to provide for its citizens during the hard lockdowns.
Oh, by the way, Tafadzwa Muguti, did you see the amount of money that development partners have disbursed in the Finance Minister’s mid-year budget review. That alone reflects how much work the civic society has been putting into the development of Zimbabwe.
Despite all this, some critics have challenged the legality of Muguti’s action and failure to cite a law that grants him the power to order the closure of civic society operations.
For a country that was ranked second least happy country in the world by the 2021 World Happiness Report, not performing well in human rights rankings and almost half of the population living in extreme poverty as reported by the World Health Organisation, surely, we cannot do without the civil society.
The civic society acts as a watchdog of the government; monitoring policies, actions and hold the government to account. They provide a prototype of the social accountability mechanism that Zimbabwe needs to prosper.