Minister riles NGOs

NGOs are upset by a government directive ordering them to align their programmes with the national economic blueprint, Zim Asset. At a meeting with about 70 non-state agencies operating in Masvingo province, Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti last week said they should adopt programmes that suited Zim Asset.

Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti
Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti

Bhasikiti has denounced the banning of 29 NGOs by his predecessor, Titus Maluleke, about two years ago. He said NGOs should focus on food security, social services delivery, poverty reduction, development of infrastructure and value addition of agriculture and minerals in line with the Zanu (PF) blueprint.

While most NGOs are already involved in programmes that uplift community livelihoods, they were riled by Bhasikiti’s directive, saying they are supposed to complement and watch over government rather than toe its policy line.

“We cannot be forced to follow a particular political party’s economic blue print because that is not our mandate,” said one participant.

“The meeting was very fruitful and progressive although we differed greatly on the approach to take when undertaking our duties,” said another.

Former governor and resident minister Maluleke courted controversy when he unilaterally banned NGOs from operating in Masvingo, home to a vibrant NGO and civil society community, leaving scores of vulnerable groups such as the elderly , young children and those living with HIV and Aids in quandary.

Bhasikiti said government was prepared to work with NGOs but warned them against carrying out activities regarded as political. “If NGOs continue working within the confines of the law, we will have no problem but if they overstep their mandate and deal in politics we will have their wings clipped. Government will always keep an eye on their activities,” he said.

Zim Rights Director Okay Machisa said while civil society organisations were happy that government had crafted the country’s economic blue print, it was not possible for CSOs to directly follow its provisions.

“Zim Asset is a government programme and the onus is on government to ensure that it implements it. Our position has always been clear that government will not dictate to us what to do in order to suit its interests,” he said.

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