Government lifts ban on operations of NGOs


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The government on 29 August lifted a two-month ban on the operations of non–governmental organisations which it had accused of dabbling in politics.

The ban was imposed by Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche on 4 June, three weeks before the presidential elections runoff which the Movement for Democratic Change subsequently pulled out of.

The lifting of the ban did not, however, seem to apply to organisations involved in democracy and human rights.

Most of them had ignored the ban in the first place.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE778, NGO BAN LIFTED, BUT NOT DEFINITIVELY

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE778

2008-09-05 11:02

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO6135

OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0778/01 2491102

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 051102Z SEP 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3388

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2263

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2383

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0908

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1660

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2016

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2437

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4869

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1532

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000778

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR G. GARLAND

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

DCHA/AA FOR MIKE HESS

AFR/AA FOR KATE ALMQUIST AND FRANKLIN MOORE

AFR/SA FOR ELOKEN, LDOBBINS, JKOLE

DCHA/OFDA FOR KLUU, ACONVERY, TDENYSENKO, LMTHOMAS

DCHA/FFP FOR JBORNS, JDWORKEN, LPETERSON, ASINK

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2018

TAGS: ASEC EAID KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL ZI

SUBJECT: NGO BAN LIFTED, BUT NOT DEFINITIVELY

 

REF: A. A. HARARE 765

B. B. HARARE 503

 

Classified By: Charge d’affaires, a.i. Glenn Warren for reasons 1.4 (b)

and (d).

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) The Ministry of Social Welfare, Public Service, and

Labour (MSWPSL) lifted the ban on humanitarian assistance on

August 29, and MSWPSL officials explained new reporting

requirements for all registered Non-Governmental

Organizations (NGOs) and Private Voluntary Organizations

(PVOs) at a meeting on September 1 (ref A). However,

significant confusion remains about the status of

non-humanitarian NGOs. The lifting of the suspension appears

to exclude organizations – including many involved in

democracy and human rights work – that operate as

Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), PVOs, Trusts, and

Universitas. Most of these organizations ignored the ban on

“field operations” and continued to carry out their

activities, although these same groups’ offices were

frequently raided and their meetings interrupted. These NGOs

believe authorities will continue to interrupt their

activities, regardless of the law. Nevertheless, they intend

to continue their efforts. Additionally, with regard to the

reporting requirements, the National Association of

Non-Governmental Organizations (NANGO) maintains that these

are a backdoor attempt to operationalize elements of the 2005

NGO Bill that was hotly contested and never made law, and may

be an attempt to impede their operations. END SUMMARY.

 

——————————————-

Background: Legalities Confound and Confuse

——————————————-

 

2. (SBU) The NGO suspension issued by Minister of Social

Welfare, Public Service, and Labour, Nicholas Goche, on June

4, singled out all NGOs conducting humanitarian operations

that were registered under the 2002 Private Voluntary

Organization Act (ref B). He further instructed “all

PVOs/NGOs to suspend all field operations until further

notice.” A June 12 clarification document issued by Stanley

Mhishi, as Acting Permanent Secretary, defined field

operations as “movement by NGOs/PVOs personnel into

communities in order to mobilize, organize, or bring together

large groups of people.” It also clarified that churches

were not affected by the suspension. The August 29 document

lifting the suspension lists five areas in which NGOs/PVOs

can operate – humanitarian assistance, food aid, relief,

recovery, and development; family and child care and

protection; care and protection of older persons; rights and

empowerment of people with disabilities; and HIV and AIDS

treatment, care, and related support services. NGO/PVO

operations in other areas are not mentioned.

 

3. (SBU) While the Zimbabwean Government (GOZ) has not

clarified if other field activities of non-humanitarian NGOs

remain suspended, NANGO believes the suspension still

restricts activities by democracy-building and human

rights-related NGOs and PVOs (e.g. Transparency International

Zimbabwe, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and

ZimRights), and that the MSWPSL request for information is

illegal. Veritas, another civil society organization that

 

HARARE 00000778 002 OF 003

 

 

deals with legal issues, disputes NANGO’s contention and

believes these activities and organizations were never

suspended. Regardless, many civil society organizations –

which have a long history of defying GOZ attempts to

interfere with their activities – have continued to operate

throughout the “suspension”.

 

4. (SBU) In another twist, many organizations (e.g. Crisis

in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, and the

National Constitutional Assembly) that conduct similar

activities are defined as Universitas and therefore fall

outside the definitions of the PVO Act. In practice,

however, police and local authorities have routinely

restricted and interrupted the activities of churches and

organizations registered as Trusts and Universitas, even

though they were not technically suspended in either the June

4 or the June 12 documents.

 

——————————————— —

Attempt to Operationalize Failed 2005 NGO Bill?

——————————————— —

 

5. (SBU) NANGO maintains that the new reporting requirements

in the Monitoring and Evaluation form (ref A) that NGOs must

submit to the MSWPSL constitute an attempt by the GOZ to

operationalize elements of the 2005 NGO Bill that was never

enacted as law. (NOTE: Although the ZANU-PF dominated

Parliament passed the bill, which the MDC-led Parliamentary

Legal Committee had found unconstitutional, President Mugabe

did not sign it into lQ The bill was harshly criticized by

organizations such as Human Rights Watch for being too

burdensome on local NGOs, prohibiting them from receiving

foreign funding for activities involving “issues of

governance”, and for eliminating registration exemptions in

the PVO Act. It also intended to increase the powers of the

MSWPSL to cancel organizations’ registrations and take over

the property of dissolved NGOs. END NOTE). As a result,

NANGO has advised NGOs and PVOs not to comply with the MSWPSL

information request.

 

———————-

OCHA Misinforms Donors

———————-

 

6. (SBU) At a September 3 meeting hosted by the UN Resident

Humanitarian Coordinator Agostinho Zacharias and the Director

of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance

(OCHA) Georges Tadonki, the two briefed donors – most of whom

did not attend the September 1 clarification meeting – on the

lifting of the suspension. They explained that human

rights-related NGOs were never covered by the ban, and that

they would not have to submit information requested to the

MSWPSL because they were registered with the Ministry of

Justice (MoJ). Zimbabwean lawyers, however, tell us that no

NGOs are registered with the MoJ. Tadonki also explained

that he believed it was “very unlikely” the GOZ would try to

stop faith-based organizations’ activities. However, in

practice, church-related organizations have been prohibited

from carrying out activities. (COMMENT: The meeting was

characterized by the familiar OCHA rhetoric of giving the GOZ

the benefit of the doubt, even in the face of contradictory

experience. END COMMENT.)

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

HARARE 00000778 003 OF 003

 

 

 

7. (C) Technically, the June 4 ban appears to remain in place

for governance and human rights organizations. In practice,

the legalities of NGOs, PVOs, Trusts, and Universitas matter

relatively little. What is significant is whether they arQin fact permitted to operate. Because the local security

structures and provincial governors all continue to be

controlled by ZANU-PF, organizations’ field activities remain

at their mercy. We will monitor closely in the coming weeks

the ability of these organizations to operate.

 

8. (C) We remain concerned that the UN’s Zacharias and

Tadonki have been too conciliatory toward the GOZ and

unwilling to press for humanitarian access and for the

ability of governance and human rights organizations to

operate throughout Zimbabwe. Their reluctance to confront

the GOZ has made it easier for the government to escape

responsibilities for its actions. END COMMENT.

MCGEE

(35 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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