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NGO Act an affront to freedom of association – WiLDAF

THE WOMEN in Law and Development in Africa says the NGO Act in its current form is essentially an affront to constitutional guarantees of freedom of association.

WiLDAF country coordinator Muzi Kamanga said the NGO Act in its current form had no place in any society least of all, a fledgling democracy as Zambia.

The government embarked on a process of regulating CSOs with a view that some were neither following their mandates nor using resources for the intended beneficiaries.

However, before this, NGOs in 1999 developed a voluntary Code of Conduct to promote self-regulation and professional conduct.

In 2004, the government came up with the NGO bill which was said to be highly contentious. As consultations were going on, CSOs felt the bill was not favourable to non-governmental organisations. In 2009, the government enacted the bill despite protests from various CSOs.

The Act is being implemented by the Ministry of Community Development under a new department called Registrar of NGOs.

However, 10 CSOs, namely ZCSD, NGOCC, YALI, FODEP, WILDAF, WLSA, Operation Young Vote, Zambia Civic Education Association, Transparency International Zambia and Action Aid challenged the law and sued the Attorney General, arguing among others that the Act did not recognise the legal status of existing organisations, was ultra vires in that it specified the thematic nature of CSO as well as geographical areas they should operate in, was against the Kigali Declaration which calls for state parties to create a conducive environment for CSO.

In their presentations it was shared that the government had through the chief government spokesperson indicated readiness to table the NGO bill before the June session of National Assembly and that the ZLDC had invited, through a prescribed form, for CSOs to provide submissions.

The process was at input stage from various stakeholders in the zero draft bill and further refinement by the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) before it is presented to the Ministry of Community Development and then Ministry of Justice which have to present it before the National Assembly.

Kamanga said the current drafting process by ZLDC was facilitating the redress of the points of contention in the NGO Act and WiLDAF was still of its earlier position.

“However, we are of considered view that the issues that precipitated our court action to repeal and replace the NGO Act must as a minimum be addressed by any reform process, failing which we shall reconsider our court action,” said Kamanga.

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