Zomba Civil Society Organisations Network has expressed concern over the newly amended non-governmental organisation (NGO) bill saying it is aimed at weakening civil society groups.
In a statement signed by chairperson for the group, Sammy Aaron, the CSOs have said the bill is in conflict with the constitution.
The statement mentioned Section 32 of the Constitution which provides for right to association as being infringed upon by some points highlighted in the bill.
“For example, among other prominent issues, we note that the bill is inconsistent with Section 32 of the constitution which provides for the right to freedom of association including forming associations.
“The bill limits this constitutional right by imposing mandatory registration of NGOs and prescribing criminal and civil penalties for failing or delaying to register,” said Aaron.
The statement also said that the CSOs have taken note of Section 36 of the bill which provides for criminal charges against CSOs board, chief executive officer and managers if anything goes wrong.
The group say they feel like this is just a way of weakening the CSOs as many people would refrain from taking these position.
“This is a deliberate move to weaken the NGO sector because many NGO trustees sit on their boards on voluntary basis and it is very difficult to continue serving while facing criminal liabilities,” reads part of the statement.
The statement further said that parliament undermined the rule of law as it proceeded in deliberating and passing the bill when there was a stay order from the supreme court.
The CSOs have since asked the president not to assent to the bill, faulting the process in which the bill was passed.
“We are convinced to resolve that this bill does not subscribe to the spirit of Malawians. It is unMalawian. Hence, we find it necessary to join the call to encourage the President to withhold assent to the bill and send it back to parliament, as stipulated in section 73 of our constitution,” adds the statement.