Ministry slams breaks on NGO Act

Jean Kapata

THE enforcement of the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Act of 2009 has been halted as the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health has written to the Ministry of Justice seeking its indulgence on the matter.
The enforcement of the NGO Act has stirred ill feelings among civil society organisations (CSOs) which contend that the statute would stifle their operations.
Community Development, Mother and Child Health Deputy Minister Jean Kapata said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that the matter was still being addressed and appealed for calm among the affected stakeholders.
At a Press briefing yesterday, the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) vowed not to register under the new Act.
However, Ms Kapata said the Act was not planned by the Government but was the requirement prescribed in the Republican Constitution and adopted in 2009.
She said her ministry was still waiting for the indulgence of the Ministry of Justice but warned that once it was agreed, her office would not hesitate to deregister NGOs that did not abide by the new requirement.
“The NGO Act is not an Act of the Patriotic Front Government but a Constitutional requirement that all NGOs should abide by.
“However, my ministry has written to the Ministry of Justice on the matter and we are still awaiting their advice,” she said.
NGOCC chairperson Beatrice Grillo, speaking at the Press briefing at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday, alleged that the NGO Act was unjust, oppressive and in conflict with Article  21 of the Constitution.
Ms Grillo said the Act would curtail the CSOs’ freedom of operating independently.
Ms Grillo said the Act would also impinge on the internal affairs of CSOs whose role was to act as watchdogs and accountability entities to ensure equity and quality in service delivery.
She called for further consultations on the matter before the Act was enforced.
TIZ executive director Goodwell Lungu said the NGO Act in its current form was discriminatory and unprogressive, adding that TIZ would only consider registering if the law was repealed and replaced.