NGOs operating in Zambia are worried that a new legislation on civil society organizations could restrict their autonomy and lead to a loss in qualified personnel and foreign funding.
The bill, which parliament passed last week, only needs to be signed by President Rupiah Banda before it becomes a law. It calls for "the registration and co-ordination of NGOs, to regulate the work, and the area of work, of NGOs operating in Zambia."
The law would create a 16-person board, including as many as eight government officials and a minimum of two representatives from civil society organizations. NGOs would have to ask for registration every five years, after the submission of information on their activities, budgets, funding and even details on the personal wealth of their top officials.
Representatives from human rights watchdogs such as the Southern African Center for Constructive Resolution of Disputes told international media they fear the law may deprive NGOs of many qualified professionals who wouldn't want to disclose their economic status to the government.
A top official from the Non-Governmental Organization Coordinating Council, which gathers NGOs addressing gender issues, said the obligation to register every five years may discourage foreign donors from funding Zambian organizations for projects that may last longer than such period.
In 2007, the Zambian government had to withdraw another NGO bill following protests by various sectors.