The Zimbabwean government has moved to tighten the conditions under which the country's approximately 1,000 nongovernmental organizations are registered and can operate, saying it wants to weed out those working to change the administration.
On Friday, the government gazetted a new code of procedure for the registration and operation of NGOs under the Private Voluntary Organizations Act. Local NGOs must now apply to the registrar of private voluntary organizations in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare through the local district social service office.
International NGOs will be required to sign a memorandum of understanding with Harare, which says it will demand a letter of "clearance" from Interpol, the international police coordination agency.
The Bill gazetted Friday follows an announcement two weeks ago that Harare had deregistered all NGOs. Legal experts have said this was not legal but some NGOs have suspended operations until the government clarifies its intentions.
Advocacy and Communications Manager Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations described the code as “ambiguous.” He added that NGOs have noted an increase in surveillance by members off the Central Intelligence Organization.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Cordinator Jacob Mafume told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he believed the crackdown on NGOs will intensify as Zimbabwe gets closer to the March 2008 presidential and general elections.
Civic groups are concerned about the new regulations Harare has proposed.
For perspective, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Peter Kagwanja, director of democracy and governance programs at the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria, and chief executive officer Cephas Zinhumwe of Harare's National Association of Non-Governmental Associations.
Zinhumwe said the proposed rules are nothing new in light of the NGO Bill, which was never passed and signed into law, adding that he expected the government to step up pressure on NGOs ahead of elections to minimize their effectiveness.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...