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Government desperate—CSOs

By Rebecca Chimjeka:

Civil society organisations (CSOs) have said the gazetting of non-governmental organisations (NGO) Bill clearly shows how desperate the government is to gag the voiceless.

The CSO’s members spoke in Lilongwe on Tuesday after a day-long meeting over the NGO Amendment Bill which is expected to be tabled in the current sitting of Parliament.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, said the bill is undemocratic and repressive.

“NGOs are not terrorists. It’s shocking to see how the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party]-led government is desperate to table this law. We will fight this no matter how long it may take,” Mtambo said.

He said the NGO Act is a tool which the government wants to use to shut NGOs voices.

Youth and Society Executive Director, Charles Kajoloweka, said the government did not consult the CSOs on the bill.

He said the bill is against international human rights law on freedom of association.

“We need a robust law. We are not resisting the law but the manner in which the law has been crafted leaves a lot to be desired,” Kajoloweka said.

One of the activists, Mankhumbo Munthali, said the Law Commission should handle the proposed law reform.

He said by creating an NGO Regulatory Authority, the government wants to weaken council for non-governmental organisations (Congoma) which, he said, is contrary to human rights obligations.

In the bill, the government has proposed a K15 million fine if any NGO operates without accreditation.

The bill states that the government will appoint people to NGO Regulation Authority comprising 11 members which Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs will appoint.

Minister of Justice, Samuel Tembenu, said the government was not targeting anyone, adding that they consulted on the bill.

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