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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Zimbabwe moves to restrict NGOs
President Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe has warned against what he calls foreign interference
Zimbabwe's government has published a proposed law that would ban foreign human rights organisations and restrict many local charities.

The bill requires non-governmental organisations to apply for a licence, but says none will be granted if the group's aim is to promote human rights.

Local groups would also be banned from receiving funds from abroad to finance work in such fields.

President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly accused NGOs of meddling in politics.

'Safety nets'

A key clause of the bill states that "no foreign non-governmental organisation shall be registered if its sole or principal objects involve or include issues of governance".

Issues of governance are defined as "the promotion and protection of human rights and political governance issues".

But the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations said the proposed law would criminalise groups which helped the most vulnerable in society, including the unemployed and those living with HIV/Aids.

"Unfortunately the bill criminalises a sector that is providing social safety nets to a lot of communities throughout the country," it said, the AP news agency reported.

Human rights campaigners have said the bill, if it became law, would have devastating effects.

The bill is expected to be passed through parliament to become law when parliament reconvenes later this year.


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