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CSOs say no to NGO Bill

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Charles Kajoloweka

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on President Lazarus Chakwera not to assent to the NGO Amendment Bill which parliamentarians passed this year.

Leaders of over 40 local and international organisations that gathered in Lilongwe yesterday made the call to the Malawi leader.

One of the leaders of the organisations, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa, said the bill has provisions that will choke CSO operations in the country.

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“And, as such, CSOs will not be operating freely if the President assents to the bill before the punitive provisions are removed from it. What we are saying is that the bill has to go back to the drawing board. It has many clauses that do not pass the test of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and international law.

“For instance, under the bill, it is an offence for CSOs to engage in political issues in what is termed as politicking. This ought not to be so because every citizen or institution has a right to operate freely,” Kaiyatsa said.

Youth and Society (Yas) Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka said it was absurd that, under the amended bill, trustees risk facing two years imprisonment or paying K5 million for not submitting annual reports.

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He said the CSOs look at such provisions as dangerous for their operations.

“All we want is for the President not to assent to this bill. There are more phrases that are directly infringing on how best we can operate in the country. We trust that the President will take the bill back to Parliament,” Kajoloweka said.

In 2018, three organisations— namely CHRR, Yas and Centre for the Development of People— obtained an injunction restraining the Executive and Parliament from tabling or debating the bill until the courts made a determination on the issue.

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