Mashonaland Central Provincial Minister, Advocate Martin Dinha, told villagers in Muzarabani that the era of being sceptical of Non-Governmental Organisations is over and the nation should start embracing and appreciating the role they play in community development.
Dinha made the remarks while officiating at the celebrations of attaining Open Defecation Free (ODF) status by communities in Murwira, Muganhi, Chihuri, Mutasa A and Mutasa B Villages in Hwata ward of Muzarabani District.
The project was implemented by World Vision Zimbabwe, with support from UNICEF and funding from UK Department for International Development (DFID.
Said Dinha,” As the government, we appreciate the role being played by NGOs in our country. They are helping us with very critical community development projects which, we as a government, might have failed to undertake. Our councils as well are not able to do that kind of work. Let’s welcome them with our open arms and let’s help them when they need help, it is a collective effort.”
“We thank them for helping our people attain Open Defecation Free, which means the community is less prone to diseases and outbreaks which may result in open defecation. We are in a new era hence we need tolerance.”
“We are in the era of tolerance and opening up the country for business hence we need to make sure that when these organisations come to us, they are here to help us develop and be at par with other countries,” Dinha noted.
He paid homage to World Vision for implementing the ODF project which will help close to 75 554 villagers in five wards. The project is part of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program.
“We thank you World Vision for your continued good work and we as the government, would want to see you expanding your work to other parts of the country,” he said.
In drought years, NGOs have been pivotal in the distribution of food to the hungry, in giving social assistance and in the provision of safety nets to communities under distress.
In most cases, NGOs compliment government efforts and stand ready to give critical solidarity to governments in many countries. In Zimbabwe, the NGO sector is a major contributor to economic development, employment and the fiscus.
Unconfirmed statements by government officials put the number of CSOs and NGOs operating in Zimbabwe at over 20,000. The reports are unconfirmed since there is no publicly available record or database of registered legal entities.
Relationships between the government and the NGOs as well as the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been frosty since independence.
Following independence, and as the socio-political situation in post-independent Zimbabwe deteriorated in the late 1990s, there was a huge shift of emphasis by both old and new CSOs to issues dealing with democracy and governance.
Indeed most of Zimbabwe’s opposition was born and bred from civil society. With the increased demand for democratic space and reforms in Zimbabwe, CSOs became targets of state harassment through increased legislative and administrative interference as they were perceived as extensions of political opposition.
Since then the Zanu-PF led government has launched a number of regulatory initiatives, which, while ultimately not resulting in
enactment, do serve to distract and/or threaten the civic sector with a more restrictive legal environment.
Examples include most notably, the NGO Bill of 2004 was enacted by Parliament, but never approved by the President, and it has since lapsed. The Bill would have prohibited local NGOs engaged in issues of governance from accessing foreign funds.