Defy Government

The Nation last week carried a peculiar article: “90% aid to NGOs can’t be traced”

This headline is misleading: the NGO board does not get submitted the books of NGOs amounting to 90% of the funding. But that does not mean it can’t be traced, just that the NGOs are not submitting their books.

The demand by the NGO board that NGOs must submit their books has no legal basis, it is illegal regulation. NGOs (having legal advisors) know this and defy the NGO board. This is a good example of civil disobedience: a government organization makes an illegal and unjust demand, and the NGOs defy the order. Let the NGO board sue them, and they can prove the demand is illegal. The NGO board knows this too, and does not initiate legal action. It just cries foul in the newspaper. Anyway: the NGO board cannot afford to close down 90% of the NGOs. They also know that much of the tasks that government is not fulfilling are done by NGOs, and that the population will suffer from closing these NGOs. And that will cause problems for government: they will be seen even more as non-performing than is now the case. So the NGOs can afford to defy the NGO board, and that is what they are doing.

We need more of this kind of action in many places: if regulations are not just, we need to challenge them, the way the NGOs are challenging the NGO board. If actions from government or any other actor are not just, we need to challenge them. Now NGOs are in a better position to do this, because they are more powerful than the individual citizen, especially if the citizen happens to be poor, which is the large majority of the population. But with concerted action, it is very well possible to put government on the right track.

We saw this recently when the population of Mulanje chased away Minister of agriculture Chaponda. Again, if the population gets organized it becomes difficult if not impossible for government to keep oppressing the population.

Government is performing far below expectation: bad service delivery. Think of the condition of our schools, the availability (or non-availability) of drugs in hospitals, the worsening security situation, the ordeal of getting a passport, drivers license or car registration, the swindle at Admarc or any of the other services government is supposed to provide. We need to get organized like the NGOs, and defy unjust government. That is civil disobedience and it is a strong weapon of the population to defend our rights against government oppression and non-performance.

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