Mist over NGO Bill tabling

Controversy surrounds the legal status of the contentious Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Act (Amendment) Bill set to be tabled in Parliament with civil society organisations (CSOs) claiming there is an injunction stopping the process.

Legislators transacting business in this file photo

But Parliament denies there is an injunction stopping the tabling of the Bill.

The Bill is listed on the Order Paper, an outline of business to be tackled in the National Assembly, for the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting of Parliament scheduled to start today. It is appearing as Bill number 26 of 2018.

The development has drawn the wrath of Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka whose organisation was among the three CSOs High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire on December 18 2018 granted an injunction pending a judicial review.

Other parties to the case are Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep).

Lawyer representing the three CSOs, Weslesy Mwafulirwa, yesterday expressed surprise at the development when contacted by telephone.

He said: “To the best of my knowledge, the court order is still in place.”

Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Cecilia Chazama, whose ministry is the custodian of the Bill, when asked to explain the decision said she was not aware that the proposed amendment was on the line-up.

Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa, who is also Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, referred the matter to Parliament Secretariat.

But Parliament Secretariat public relations officer Ian Mwenye asked for more time to consult on the issue.

In a November 2018 statement, Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) chairperson Steve Duwa argued that the Bill was aimed at usurping Congoma’s powers through a proposal to create a separate regulatory body called the NGO Authority.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) feel that government would like to use the authority to stifle dissenting CSOs while at the same time killing Congoma by making membership of the umbrella body voluntary.

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