Monday, August 31, 2009
AllAfrica.comreports that Zambian president Rupiah Banda has signed legislation regulating the operations of civil society, sending shock waves through the sector, which fears its independence will be severely compromised. Presidential assent means the 2009 NGO Bill, withdrawn in 2007 after widespread protests by civil society and opposition parties, now only needs gazetting to become legislation that will require "the registration and co-ordination of NGOs" and can “regulate the work, and the area of work, of NGOs operating in Zambia.” Dickson Jere, a special assistant to the president for press and public relations, confirmed in a statement: “His Excellency the President Mr Rupiah Banda has assented to 13 Bills, which were recently passed by the National Assembly, including ... the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill.” The new stipulations will compel NGOs to re-register every five years and submit annual information on their activities, funders, accounts, and the personal wealth of their officials; failure to comply could result in the suspension or cancellation of registration. On 28 August 2009 civil society organizations held an emergency meeting in the capital, Lusaka, to plan a response to the looming regulations, which the NGOs have termed “unconstitutional.” “We have already resolved to carry out a peaceful demonstration next week on 4 September 2009 in Lusaka, and there are arrangements going on so that people in the provinces also carry out the protests. I think the court action [a proposed injunction] is a definite intervention as well, but we are still talking,” an NGO worker, who declined to be identified, told IRIN News Service.