NGOs and the constitutional commissions: Part One

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By Nondumiso Sibanda

LAST year we saw the dawn of a new constitution.
Many of us were happy that a new era had come in our lifetime; while the greatest celebrations were heard in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) community.
Of course they did not get all that they supposedly had desired, but one thing for sure was that there was a lot of jubilation or more or less for lack of a better term.
What then were they so excited about?
Their greatest excitement was based on the commissions and this is a four-part story of why they indeed celebrated and what it is they hope to achieve from one commission to the next?
I will further analyse why as a nation we ought to be very careful and wary of NGOs with regards to the various commissions.
I have been one person to speak at great length about how NGOs always try to turn the tide to their favour and how they disgustingly change a very good venture into money making one.
The commissions are a huge gold mine and every so-called humanitarian NGO is going to be wanting to ‘fund’ or ‘support’ these commissions.
A lot of terms that are going to be thrown around should definitely catch us on guard and not off guard.
One will hear terms like capacity building and strengthening of the commissions.
Various funny trainings and sensitisation workshops are going to be the order of the day.
You see dear reader, the commissions that I am referring to are the Human Rights, Gender, Judiciary and the one on Peace and Reconciliation which is only there for a period of 10 years.
In the next articles I will look at each one in detail and the kinds of NGOs that are likely to manipulate the processes and try to take over the agenda.
Today I will concentrate on giving a general analysis which is very true and foundational.
Right now if many of you google on what donors are funding, you will find out that there is a lot of money that is there for human rights institutions that are meant to be the watchdog of the government.
This move has been made deliberately as a way of ensuring sustainability of what the donor’s desire in any country.
By now, most donors have learnt that just working with NGOs on their own does not work since they can be here today and gone tomorrow.
But as for independent commissions ordained by the state and created by the constitution, they are the kind that will last for a long time and hence working with them is the way to ensure that the claws of donors are kept in the country’s bloodline.
This method has become a pattern that government needs to be made aware of. No one just comes to give you money to build your capacity and end there.
We need our commissions to be careful of the kind of capacity and so-called sensitisation that they are getting.
Of course we do have our friends whom we know that the funding we receive from them is not tied to any strings, but the majority of NGOs have their own ill-founded agendas.
They are coming in with a programme whose proposal our commissions would not have been a part of in the development stage.
So how then can they just wake up and say oh.. we are coming in to train such and such a commission when the proposal document was developed in secret?
I want to urge commissions as they are developing and coming into full function to ensure that there is no proposal that is sent out which included training or working with them whose background, introduction and funders they do not know.
This is also part of ensuring accountability of NGOs.
Why is it that they are keen on engaging government only after they have received funding?
These are the same NGOs that blacken the governments’ name to receive that very same funding.
Commissions must ask for the full proposal and conduct their own cross checking before just accepting to attend trainings and meetings because they face the risk of falling into unwarranted traps from donors.
Remember at the end of the day, the more it is proven that the omissions have knowledge and capacity, the less funding NGOs will get.
Hence they have to do their best to prove that a whole commission has no capacity and need to be groomed for a long time and they will even misquote certain statements stated by officials in the various commissions.
It is a money making gimmick and this is sad, but very true.
So a word for the wise commissions, please do not allow any NGO to just operate in your territory without taking due diligence to discover what it is they are truly after.

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