Monday, 15 September 2014

8 NGOs Withdraw High Court Lawsuit Against Govt On NGO Act

By Paul Shalala
Engwase Mwale
Emmerine Kabanshi

Eight Non-Governmental Organisations that sued the Zambian government in the High Court over the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Act of 2009 have withdrawn the lawsuit and opted for dialogue.

The NGOs had sued government following its decision to implement the controversial Act by registering all NGOs countrywide.

Over two hundred NGOs countrywide registered with the Ministry of Community Development but hundreds others defied several ultimatums for deregistration.

Speaking on behalf of the eight NGOs, Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council Executive Director Engwase Mwale said the decision to withdraw the lawsuit is aimed at bringing government to the negotiating table.

"We have decided to withdraw the lawsuit because we want dialogue to prevail over the NGO Act. We had a meeting with the Attorney General where we agreed to go back to the drawing board," said Mwale.

She however says the NGOs reserve the right to take back the lawsuit if dialogue does not yield results.

The eight NGOs that  sued government are FODEP, NGOCC, Operation Young Vote, Zambia Council for Social Development and Action Aid.

Others are Zambia Civic Education Association, Women and Law Development in Africa and the Young African Leaders Initiative.

But Community Development Minister Emmerine Kabanshi says the decision by the eight NGOs to withdraw the lawsuit is a good move.

But she has revealed that government will not stop the registration of NGOs.

"We will not stop registering NGOS. But we are committed to implementing the July 2014 Roadmap on reviewing the NGO Act, she said.

The controversial law was enacted during the reign of the MMD but it was only operationalised by the PF government much to the annoyance of NGOs.

The civil society is against the provisions of the NGO Act which compels them to be registered by government as they see it as regulation by the state.

According to the July 2014 Roadmap for reviewing the NGO Act, an independent consultant is  supposed to be hired to review the act and there after, a national validation stakeholder meeting on the act must be held in October this year.

The document further stipulates that a draft bill must be prepared and tabled in Cabinet before its taken to parliament for amendment in July 2015.

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