Civil rights groups lose donors

Civil and political rights non-profit organisations have fallen on hard times as funds have dried up since the 2013 general election.

Interviewees said most of the donors on whom they had depended were shifting their attention to social and economic rights programmes.

Most of the surveyed CSOs had seen their funding halved, forcing them to cut salaries, defer critical programmes and even reduce workforces. A source from one of the severely affected organisations said they had lost five donors out of eight.

“It looks like most of us will be laid off in December when our contracts expire. The situation is understandable because there is no funding. We have been told that donors are no longer interested in civil and political rights,” she said. Some of the affected organisations are reportedly diverting money donated for programmes to meet salary expenses, without the knowledge of the donors.

Zimbabwe has more than 30 organisations focusing on political and civil rights, according to Cephas Zinhumwe, the head of the National Association of Non – Governmental Organisations.

Prominent among them are Zimrights, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

Crisis in Zimbabwe has already reduced the number of days staffers can work as a way of adjusting the salary budget. Numerous other organisations are reported to have adopted the same strategy. Some have closed or are dormant.

In order to placate donors, some of the cash-strapped CSOs are said to be realigning their programming to address social and economic rights, while there is an increase in the number of non-profit rights organisations directly engaging government and line ministries as a partner.

“A number of the CSOs have realised that aligning their methods and objectives to Zim Asset might save them. This comes out of a realisation that major donors are increasingly warming up to the government and are planning to work with it directly,” said a source.

Nango’s Zinhumwe was cautious, however: “I would not talk of massive donor withdrawal. It all depends on how good an organisation is at sourcing funding. Some might have applied late; others could have depended too much on a limited number of donors, while other’s funding cycles might have ended.

“However, the government seems to have successfully done its propaganda around Zim Asset, thereby convincing donors to shift to social and economic rights in tandem with the economic blueprint.”

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