NON Governmental Organisations (NGOs) with an overtly political or electoral mandate — known in some circles as the regime change agenda — may have challenges getting funding from donors following what may be perceived as ‘failure to deliver’ in the recently-held plebiscite where ZANU-PF won in an election outcome disputed by its rivals on grounds of irregularities around the transparency of the voting and registration processes, among other things.
Analysts say the irregularities which include, but are not limited to, voter registration discrepancies, lack of adequate voter education among others, point to gaps in the civil sector’s supposed role of engendering democracy, good governance, and the promotion of human rights.
“In terms of the big picture, we may not have a lot of successes to show, but we have done our bit,” said Macdonald Lewanika, director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.
“We did all we could to stand for people’s rights and advocate for democracy among other objectives. It’s not entirely up to us. It is government which did not pull its weight.”
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is a conglomeration of more than 350 civic society organisations. It was originally conceived in August 2001 as a collective response by Zimbabwean civics to the multi-faceted crisis of governance and legitimacy.
‘Failure to deliver’ may make those who poured in the dollars to fund some of the NGOs not very happy, analysts say.
“There are some implications for some NGOs especially those that are election related. They may not be viewed very positively by the donors. However, donors may not necessarily go away but there may be reduction in funding,” said an analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Fidelis Fengu, a social development entrepreneur, agrees adding that cutting of funds could be used to influence public direction.
“I think that the institutional NGOs will squeeze the social pipe, cut funding on social sectors and people-oriented projects to push people to revolt,” Fengu said.
Lewanika is adamant that the election outcome and the subsequent return to power by the western–despised President Robert Mugabe will not affect their resource mobilisation and work.
“Our work is not dependent on elections. Neither is it dependent on funding. We believe we have a cause which can sustain itself. Our struggle is organic and will sustain itself. We have not seen any partners withdrawing,” said Lewanika.
Working on a regime change agenda is not something NGOs accused of doing so should be ashamed of, according to Lewanika.
“We should not be apologetic of working to change an underperforming and undemocratic government. There is nothing wrong with that. It is done all over the world and Zimbabwe is no exception. If people want to think that translates into a regime change agenda then so be it,” he said.
“In any case, we have changed the regime. We are coming from a government of multi-partners into a one party government,” Lewanika said.
While he agrees that NGOs with a political mandate may be tainted by the election outcome, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute Rashweat Mukundu thinks the human rights sector did deliver considerably.
“The Zimbabwe human rights sector has more than delivered on its mandate,” Mukundu said. “The mandate of NGOs is civic and not political. And it is this sector that has ensured that political prisoners are represented, that the rights of ordinary citizen be they women or children are respected.”
The agenda for the NGOs sector is far from over, said Alois Masepe, a political analyst.
“For as long as the NGOs are concerned with the democratisation of the body politic then the job is not yet done. I am hoping they were not just baying for ZANU-PF’s blood but that they were seeking genuine democratisation so we can live in a free society. It should not be about this party or that party,” Masepe said.
Mukundu agrees, but says the ruling party should be monitored.
“The NGO sector still has a role to play in articulating civic and citizen issues. There is need for the NGO sector to monitor the performance of the new ZANU-PF government as well as ensure that citizen voices are represented in governance issues. The NGO sector must be sustainable by being rooted in communities and not necessarily elitist groupings based in leafy urban suburbs,” said Mukundu.
According to the chief executive of the National Association of NGOs, Cephas Zinhumwe, his organisation is currently engaging its members to ascertain areas of emphasis going forward.
“We are engaging our membership regarding areas of emphasis, once members are sure of the direction they are taking, then they will liaise with their funding partners,” Zinhumwe said, adding, “The donors are waiting to hear from us on which direction we take. We are the ones who give them (donors) the direction we are taking.”
Zinhumwe expressed hope that the funding situation would remain as before, and that all stakeholders would be engaged likewise.
“We are hopeful that the situation will be like before in terms of engagement with government, with the communities and with the donors,” said Zinhumwe.
Mukundu is also optimistic.
“The donor community is aware of the need to strengthen citizen participation in civic matters. And those NGOs that have a clear and defined agenda will survive. Others who are or were overtly political may face challenges as they will be judged on the basis of the election outcome and not necessarily supporting citizens to participate in governance,” Mukundu said.
“There may have been disappointments and this is acknowledged,” said Masepe, referring to the election outcome and subsequent power retention by President Mugabe. “But democratisation of a society is a process not an event,” said Masepe.
Fengu believes developments on the political arena render some NGOs irrelevant
“NCA is now irrelevant, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is now irrelevant but Lawyers for Human Rights Parliamentary Watch Forums remains relevant to donors,” Fengu said.
“Democratisation is still on the agenda. Our agenda is still relevant,” said the NGO Coalition boss.
Meanwhile the Head of the European Union Delegation, Ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia has said, “The EU is currently reviewing its relations with Zimbabwe taking account of the broader point of view on the elections as well as the approach of the new government. .. EU’s goal is to support the Zimbabwean people in achieving a more prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe, as a foundation for the future full normalisation of relations between Zimbabwe and the EU. The EU will work to help build the prosperity and welfare of Zimbabwean people. We now wait to see what policies the Government will propose, but insofar as our objectives are compatible, we will be happy to work together.”