Dar es Salaam. Some non-governmental organisations said yesterday that the government’s decision to vet NGOs was meant to pave the way for an imminent crackdown.
The National Council of NGOs (Nacongo) and the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) raised the alarm in Dar es Salaam yesterday during a joint press conference.
The two organisations spoke a few days following the pronouncement by the NGOs registrar in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly, Mr Marcel Katemba.
Nacongo secretary Ismail Suleiman said although the government could be having a good intention, they suspected that the exercise might be used as an excuse to ban some NGOs which had been criticising the government. “We are worried that this exercise could be a precursor to a crackdown on NGOs and civil society organisations that are perceived to be hostile to the government,” said Mr Suleiman.
He added that the government might have opted to use the verification exercise as an excuse to ban some NGOs because it was difficult to do so through existing channels.
Mr Suleiman also said the time NGOs had been given to meet requirements listed by the registrar was too short.
Mr Katemba initially gave NGOs ten days to submit their credentials, but later extended the deadline by four days after meeting with representatives of the organisations.
During the meeting, NGO representatives complained that ten days were not enough for them to submit the required documents since most of them were operating in rural areas.
Issuing the notice, Mr Katemba said the exercise was aimed at vetting NGOs and updating their database.
The exercise will be conducted in the Central, Northern, Lake, Southern and Southern Highlands zones.
For his part, THRDC national coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa said the government should establish an NGOs and CSOs regulatory board to avoid such inconveniences in the future.
He added that it was because of the absence of such a board that the government had no accurate records on NGOs operating in the country and information such as how many people were employed by the organisations and their contribution to the country’s GDP.
“We need to have our own board which will regulate our activities. The board should have the mandate to deregister NGOs which violate the country’s laws and regulations.
“On several occasions the government has been pointing fingers at people or institutions that have been persistently criticising it...that is why we are worried,” added Mr Olengumwa.
Despite the concerns, he urged NGOs submit their credentials for verification before the expiry of the deadline.
Neither the registrar of NGOs nor the Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly could be reached for comment after calls to their mobile numbers went unanswered.
Earlier last week, Mr Katemba announced that his office would conduct the verification exercise from August 21 to 31.
NGOs, among other things, were directed to submit original registration certificates and their copies, fill in verification forms and submit all annual fee payment slips. NGOs that will fail to do so risk being struck off the register.