Councils force NGOs to pay illegal fees: Civicus

An investigation by a global civil society organisation has revealed that NGOs operating in Zimbabwe were victims of extortion from local councils who hinder their operations if they do not comply.

Civicus carried out the investigations after Masvingo Provincial Governor, Titus Maluleke, banned NGOs operating in the province.

“We have learnt that some NGOs, not only in Masvingo but throughout the country, are being forced to pay exorbitant fees by local authorities before they are allowed to carry out their work. Local authorities are charging between $100 and

$1 000 per year for a Memorandum of Understanding with individual NGOs. If an organisation refuses to pay, their activities are not allowed to proceed. Some of the NGOs on Maluleke’s “banned” list are those who have refused to pay corrupt officials to finalise MoUs,” Civicus said.

There is no legal requirement for NGOs to conclude MoUs with local authorities. In terms of the 2003 Policy on the Operations of NGOs, they are only requested to sign MoUs with Government Ministries/Agencies.

“This practice is illegal and tantamount to theft and/or extortion. It has also come to our attention that a large number of NGOs are being “policed” while carrying out their humanitarian work. They have been placed under direct surveillance by both state and non-state actors, who refuse to allow them to operate without constant escorts and handlers,” said Civicus.

It urged those experiencing this to refuse to pay for MoUsor to be escorted while they carry out their operations, and to report such actions to the authorities, lawyers, or Transparency International.

Critics say frustrating NGOs is a ploy by Zanu (PF) to maintain a stranglehold in the province ahead of elections it wants held this year. There was a similar ban ahead of polls in 2005 and 2008.

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