Thursday, July 30, 2009

Zimbabwean NGOs Concerned Over Mugabe Threats

By Alex Bell
29 July 2009

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have voiced serious concern over comments made this week by Robert Mugabe about the ‘advisability’ of having NGOs operating in the country.

Speaking at the Global 2009 Dialogue conference in Uganda, Mugabe said the government might have to reconsider whether such organisations are desirable, saying they act as a kind of shadow government.

“We have now a phenomenon of NGOs, or shall I call them phenomena for they really are a type of government in the background of a formal government?” Mugabe said.

“I don’t know whether this creature is for the better or for the worse, but in our country we have seen a situation where they have exceeded, really, their terms of reference and perhaps we might have to reconsider the advisability of having NGOs,” he told the gathering.

NGOs have been constantly harassed and threatened by the Mugabe led government for several years and were last year banned from operating in the country. The ZANU PF government at the time accused NGOs of backing the MDC during the turbulent election period, and by ordering the ban, Mugabe was able to use the limited food available in the country as a political weapon. But with millions of people dependent on food aid, the government effectively ushered in a severe hunger crisis that has still not been eradicated months after NGOs were cleared to continue with their efforts.

NGOs were also earlier this month blamed for the disruption at the All Stakeholder Constitutional Conference, a disruption that was in fact caused by ZANU PF thugs and their party legislators. Fambai Ngirande from the National Association of NGOs (NANGO) said on Wednesday that such accusations were baseless and empty, arguing that, “a constitutional reform process is something we as NGOs have been advocating for, for many years.”

He said Mugabe’s threats against the NGOs are ‘unfair’ and ‘unfortunate,’ as such organisations have been ‘picking up the pieces for the government because it has failed its people.’

Western governments, meanwhile, have only pledged humanitarian aid funnelled through NGOs, instead of developmental aid to the government, in response to the unity formation’s plea for financial assistance. The donor countries have reiterated that real change must be evident in Zimbabwe before developmental aid will be made available to the government, which Ngirande explained is the core reason why Mugabe has issued the threats against NGOs.

SW Radio Africa

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