The Herald (Harare)

4 August 2014

Zimbabwe: NGOs' Damascene Moment Welcome

editorial

WE welcome the announcement by the Southern Africa Civil Society Forum, that draws its membership from all the Sadc countries, that they have dropped their adversarial approach to Government and seek to work with for national development.

Sadc Council of NGOs regional economic integration manager Mr Rangarirai Machemedze last week said confrontation between Government and civic society was not good for the country.

"We have to close ranks and work together as a collective unit for the good of the country," said Mr Machemedze.

He said the civic society could play a major role in complementing Government in national development.

Mr Machemedze said the forum came up with resolutions that would be submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for onward submission to the Victoria Falls Sadc Summit.

The announcement, which was made at the NGOs forum in Harare last week, could not have come at a better time as Zimbabwe prepares to host the 34th Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government where President Mugabe assumes chairmanship of the bloc.

A progressive civil society will be a boon to Zimbabwe's stewardship of regional affairs.

By their nature, NGOs have all along been a study in paradox where on one hand they masqueraded as independent groupings cut off from any governmental influence yet on the other hand by virtue of funding were intrinsically linked to Western countries which invariably used them as instruments of foreign policy.

The NGOs were virtual latter-day missionaries that claimed to be voluntary organisations there to serve people mainly in the developing world in the social services sector, when they were as much a part of capitalism as the neo-liberal economic prescriptions from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that create enabling environments for their emergence.

The economic prescriptions from the two Bretton Woods institutions advocate minimum government as they call for budget cuts in the "non-productive" social services sectors.

When the State moves out of these sectors, the void left is conveniently filled by the Western-sponsored NGOs that take over the government's role of looking after the citizens.

The ultimate objective being to alienate the citizen from the "uncaring" government.

This may all seem harmless since these philanthropic organisations are, after all, "non-governmental".

The plot is, however, much uglier as the NGOs are intrinsically linked to the governments in their home countries, which is why some scholars have likened them to latter day missionaries as they facilitate neo-colonialism.

Nowhere has this reading of NGOs been more apparent than in Zimbabwe since the standoff with London began at the end of the 20th century as a glut of Western-funded NGOs sprouted agitating for regime change.

They naturally became embedded in opposition politics and took an adversarial approach to Government, making them Anti-Governmental Organisations that EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Aldo Del'Ariccia recently characterised.

To this end we welcome the announcement made by the NGOs and urge them to move from the sordid past of dabbling in opposition politics and focus on the terms of reference of their registration by working with Government.

Zimbabwe is the only country we have, anywhere else we go we will be mere visitors.

The onus is on us to build and defend our country together.

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