President Lazarus Chakwera has proceeded to assent to the controversial Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) (Amendment) Bill to the disbelief of the country’s civil society organisations (CSOs) who had mounted a strong opposition to the move.
State House, through presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda, yesterday issued a statement confirming the assenting of the Bill number 10 of 2022, including 14 others that parliamentarians passed during their Fifth Meeting of the 49th Session of Parliament.
The Bill, which members of Parliament (MPs) passed in March this year, defines roles of the NGO Board and Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) besides demanding accountability for funds.
The CSOs had urged Chakwera not to assent to the Bill, arguing it is aimed at gagging operations of CSOs and undermining human rights and democracy.
Reacting to the assent yesterday, some CSOs expressed sadness, describing the move as an endorsement of impunity and violation of human rights in the country.
“This is a sad day for democracy and human rights in the country’s history. What President Chakwera has done is basically to endorse the violation of the Constitution which he swore to defend,” said Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka.
He, however, said as civil society they would not relent, but use every available avenue within their democratic mechanism to cure some of the deficits in the law.
On his part, Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson Gift Trapence said the assenting was the “biggest drawback and an attack our democracy”.
He said: “The draconian sections of the Bill could have been amended by sending back the Bill to Parliament.”
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation executive director Michael Kaiyatsa also expressed his displeasure, saying as CSOs they were not deterred, but will continue pursuing legal and peaceful means to have the law overturned.
Kaiyatsa said CSOs believe the new law has some provisions that threaten the civic space and effective operations of NGOs in the country.
Speaking when she tabled the Bill in Parliament in March this year, deputy minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Agnes Nkusa Nkhoma told legislators that the amended law would bring sanity in the NGO sector.
Other amendment Bills are Land Survey, Physical Planning, Registered Land, Lands Acquisition and Compensation, Customary Land and Peace and Unity.
Others are Opec Fund for International Development (Dowa Turnoff Water nSupply and Sanitation Project) Loan (Authorisation), International Development Association (Additional Financing for Lilongwe Water and Sanitation Project) Loan (Authorisation), Malawi Revenue Authority, Seeds, Custom and Excise, Public Private Partnership, Deposit Insurance Corporation and PMB, and National Children’s Commission.