Report : A valedictory for civil society in Zimbabwe

A valedictory for civil society in Zimbabwe

It seems that non-governmental organisations are once again seen in a negative light. However, when RAU reflected on the role of NGOs in 2013, we noted that, contrary to the assertions of many African governments, citizens in Africa held NGOs in positive regard (Reeler.2013). Moreover, the empirical findings suggested, even more positively, that the governments of African countries in which NGOs were active were likely also to be viewed positively by their citizens (Sacks.2013). However, none of this seems to affect the view of many African governments, and such is the case in Zimbabwe where all too frequently the government regards NGOs and civil society as hostile, especially where NGOS and CSOs concern themselves with governance and elections. For just one example of the hostility by government to NGOs see this statement made in 2006 by the (then) Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa, to the UN Human Rights Council:

“Their objectives include destabilisation and interference with the evolution of our political processes, undermining our sovereignty, creating and sustaining opposition groups that have no local support base, and promoting disaffection and hostility among the local population against their popularly elected government.”(Human Rights Forum. 2007. p37)

Now it is abundantly clear to all Zimbabweans that the vast majority of CSOs and NGOs in Zimbabwe are little concerned with governance or elections, and work assiduously in providing assistance to the ordinary citizens in the fields of health, education, humanitarian relief, child care, etc. Actually, it can be said that these many organisations currently provide an essential service to the state in its diminishing capacity to deliver the public goods and services that are the reason for its existence, and why we elect a political party into government. Nonetheless, the government keeps a close watch on them all to ensure that they do not undermine its control of political power, and here it is sufficient to point out the many problems that emerge between government and NGOs over food relief, which is such a critical part of the government’s patronage system.

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