Dodoma and Dar es Salaam. Representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have stepped up their campaign against the proposed amendment to eight laws governing their operations.
A statement issued by the groups in Dar es Salaam yesterday described the proposed changes as “a dark cloud” in Tanzania’s development endeavours.
They maintained the position that proposed amendment would stifle their operations by denying them independence.
The CSOs have also argued that there is no good enough a reason for the amendment to be taken through the certificate of urgency.
“We recommend that this proposed amendment should not be taken on certificate of urgency because there is no reason for the issue to be regarded as urgent,” said Onesmo Olengurumwa, the coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC). “We ask the proposed amendment to be taken back to stakeholders for improvement.”
The changes are contained in a bill of miscellaneous amendments No. 3 of 2019 in which the government seeks to draw a clear definition and meaning (and therefore operations) of a company on one side and an NGO and a Society on the other.
Government is, apparently, seeking to amend the laws in a fresh bid to ensure more transparency and accountability in the operations of NGOs.
The amendments will affect the Companies Act, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, the Films and Stage Plays Act, the NGOs Act , the Societies Act, the Statistics Act the Tanzanian Shipping Agencies, Act and the Trustees’ Incorporation Act.
While keeping the respective legislative pieces, the amendments - which were made public earlier this week – will widen the scope of the functions and duties of the Registrar of NGOs to include the ability to suspend operation of an NGO that will seen to operate contrary to the provisions of the Act.
The executive director of Equality for Girls (EFG), Ms Jane Magigita, said CSOs have been contributing greatly to the development of Tanzania and, as such, it is important that all stakeholders are involved in any reform measures.
For her part, the executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC),Ms Anna Henga, said “there is not even a single positive side to the proposed amendments.”
Twaweza executive director Aidan Eyakuze said there were some positive aspects in the proposed amendments. He nonetheless expressed disquiet with the way the authorities were going about implementing them.
“This is why we needed time before the amendment proposals reached this stage. Some of the proposed amendments go as far as restricting people’s rights to the freedom of expression… Some of the sections may create problems even in government – if only because, within two months, they would have de-registered some of the NGOs which are here to help the needy,” he said.
HakiElimu programmes head Godfrey Boniventura also expressed dismay at the fact that the amendments were being processed under a certificate of urgency. In the event, he asked the government to “explain its intentions.”
The NGOs’ meeting comes within hours after Amnesty International voiced its concern, noting that The Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments)Bill No. 3 of 2019 would restrict the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association – and seek to place impermissible restrictions on civil society organisations and entrench censorship.