How exactly do you kick a Zimbabwean NGO out of Zimbabwe?

This country would have been a most hilarious circus - had real people not been enduring insufferable pain and impoverishment.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


Never short of what would have been ordinarily considered comedic and comic incidents – if only the country’s citizens were not at the receiving end of the unbearable and intolerable consequences.

Surely, what else are we to say when a whole head of state threatens to expel, or “kick out” any NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that refuse to be cowered by the ruling elite, by resisting to tow the ruling party line of state-sponsored oppression, mismanagement, and looting of national resources?

Of course, this is packaged by the regime as “meddling in politics”, and “deviating from their stated mandates”.

When I heard these words yesterday, March 19, 2022 – uttered during a campaign rally in Binga, Matebeleland North province – my first thoughts were that my ears had misinterpreted what had been said, and resolved to await further news bulletins to verify the exact words.

As it turned, my ears had heard correctly – and, the shock of such a brazenly reckless statement finally hit me.

In as much as such clearly undemocratic and unstatemanly comments are never surprising coming from this discredited and rogue regime – as worse has been spewed before, such as bragging about the ruling party being holders of masters degrees in violence – however, what made this particular occasion truly bizarre is the nonsensical nature of the excitable threat.

Just how exactly does the government of Zimbabwe expect to kick Zimbabwean NGOs – which are run by Zimbabweans – out of Zimbabwe?

I am sure a quick perusal of a list of NGOs operating in the country will easily reveal that over 99% are of local origins.

Admittedly, just as any other donor-funded not-for-profit entity – many are financed from foreign sources – nonetheless, that has never been a crime in Zimbabwe, nor does that render these organizations foreign, such that can be “kicked out” of the country.

Who has the power and authority in this country to “kick out” another fellow citizen?

Even during the colonial period – whereby, local nationalist liberation movements were banned, and their leaders incarcerated on numerous charges, as treason, terrorism, subversion, amongst a host of others (including my own father being blacklisted from ever practicing his beloved teaching profession) – none of these were ever “kicked out” of Rhodesia.

As much as they moved their bases to mostly neighboring countries as Zambia and Mozambique – they did so, not on account of having been expelled or “kicked out”, but voluntarily as a way to evade arrest, or effectively plan and wage the liberation struggle.

The brutal truth is that the Zimbabwe government can not “kick out” any Zimbabwean NGO. Period!

Therefore, why the tyrannical threat?

These are clearly the rantings of an administration that fears being exposed for its ruinous policies that have pushed an entire nation over the edge of a cliff.

Quite frankly, there can never be a genuine person – let alone an organization – that is not involved in politics in one form of another, and thus, it is completely disingenuous and ludicrous to expect them not to.

Politics, by its very nature, affects each and every one of us – and, as such, can never be divorced from whatever activities we engage in, especially as NGOs.

The word “politics” itself has its roots in the name of Aristotle’s classic work, Politiká, which introduced the Greek term politiká (Πολιτικά, “affairs of the cities”).

Meaning that, anything to do with “city” or, more precisely, “the country” and the lives of its “citizens” (also derived from citisein [fem. citeseine] “inhabitant of a city or town,”) – is considered politics.

Therefore, what you are going to eat today, or whether you will afford to buy anything to eat at all – is determined by politics.

How, then, can anyone – more so, NGOs – be separated from politics, or “not meddle in politics”?

For instance, let us say I were to establish an organization that focused on the welfare and wellbeing of orphans.

After which, it becomes apparent that one of the main reasons there were so many vulnerable children was as a result of inconsistent government economic policies, that had led to huge numbers of parents dying due to the unaffordability of medications, or poverty that had driven may into risky sexual pursuits in order to earn a living (such as prostitution), without any effective safety nets, which had led to a marked increase in HIV/Aids related deaths, leaving orphans without anyone to care for them.

Would my NGO – originally mandated to assist orphans – be expected to keep quiet, yet knowing fully well that the government shouldered much of the blame for the increase in these vulnerable children?

Should women’s rights organizations be silent when a very senior government official is busy abusing his estranged wife – for fear of being labelled, “meddling in politics”?

Would the government be justified in revoking the NGOs registration – as is being envisioned by the proposed notorious amendments to the PVO (private voluntary organizations) Act – on the basis that we “meddled in politics”?

I will not even touch on the highly ridiculous, “kick out” NGO threat!

In any country, NGOs will inevitably “meddle in politics” – as every aspect of human life is intertwined with politics.

During the colonial era – when the Black majority was subjugated by a White minority – would it have been wrong for an NGO involved in, say religion and religious activities, to “meddle in politics” by denouncing this oppression?

Let us not kid ourselves – any NGO worth its salt is expected to “meddle in politics”, particularly in a country as Zimbabwe, where the regime appears on a resolute mission to make the lives of the citizenry a living hell.

There is no way the government can expect to get away with silencing NGOs – as that would be akin to silencing the people, and an attempt to repress the defenceless citizenry with impunity.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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