Last Sunday our daughter Kupela dropped in for a spot of supper, and to say goodbye. She was off to the University of Poxford, on a Rogue Scholarship, to get a masters degree.
'What's the subject of your thesis?' asked Sara, as she picked up some chibwabwa with her nshima.
'Political cannibalism,' she replied, as she deftly smacked a mosquito between her hands, and then showed us the blood that had just been sucked out of us.
'Don't you mean political parasitism?'
'I know what I mean,' she declared. 'Nowadays our politicians don't just suck our blood, they swallow us whole.'
'They can swallow entire organisations,' said Sara.
'That's my area of interest,' said Koops, as she swallowed a mouthful of chikanda. 'I'm going to look at how the government is using the new NGO Act to swallow NGOs.'
'Then will they still be non-government?'
'Of course not. They'll be re-gurgitated as NOGOs, Newly Organised Government Organisations, managed and controlled by
'But why are they doing that?'
'Theft,' explained Koops. 'The government wants to get their long sticky fingers into the large proportion of donor money that's been going to NGOs.'
'Huh,' I said. 'That sounds a bit fanciful. Can you explain how the NGO Act facilitates theft?
'When the government swallows the NGOs, they'll also swallow their donor funding!'
'But how exactly is that done?'
'In so many ways,' said Koops. 'For instance, the Minister for Community Destruction and Social Warfare appoints the Board which invents and imposes the NOGO code of conduct, and all the rules and
'I thought laws had to be approved by
parliament,' said Sara.
'The Act sidelines parliament,' Koops explained. 'The Minister and his Board have absolute discretion to make their own laws to govern NOGOs. They also approve or
disapprove NOGO policies and plans, staff appointment, reports and accounts. The Minister, Mafia Kingu, is now a king in his own kingdom, and can eat the donor money as he thinks fit. The previously inconsequential Minister of Community Destruction and Social Warfare has now suddenly become the most powerful and best remunerated person in
'But you haven't explained how he gets his fingers in the till,' Sara complained.
'Isn't it obvious?' laughed Koops. 'To start with, he approves the NOGO staff appointments, thereby providing employment opportunities for all the
ministers' useless relatives and children, who will now become a charge upon the donors. And instead of being
accountable to the donors, the NOGOs are now accountable to the Minister on how they spend donor money!'
'Surely,' laughed Sara, 'when you spend a person's money, you have to be made accountable to the person who gave it to you, and not accountable to somebody else!'
'So you might think,' laughed Koops. 'But this is Zambia!'
'So what sort of work is an NOGO expected to do?'
'Previously this was determined by the NGO's members and clients. But now it is invented and directed by the Board. It is very clear from the Act that these NOGOs are to be contracted to undertake government projects concerned with implementing government
policies. Of course, as we all know, getting a government contract is so much easier if you are able to offer a backhander, and employ RB Capital Partners as the consulting agency. If you don't understand these things, there will be many middlemen to help you, for a generous fee.'
'Suppose you refuse to play ball?' asked Sara.
'The Board can direct which activity you undertake, and where you do it. An NGO presently concerned with health education in Lusaka could easily be told that they have been re-designated as an NOGO concerned with
collecting garbage in Mpulungu.'
'And if they refuse?'
'They will be de-registered.'
'But what about watchdog NGOs such as Transparency International, JCTR, or NGOCC? They're not concerned with government contracts. They hold
government to account on matters of
corruption, human rights and good
'When they apply for re-registration,' laughed Koops, 'they'll all be refused.'
'On what grounds?'
'Obviously to stop the watchdogs from watching the Minister and his Board!'
'Providing an enabling environment for
'Very much so,' laughed Koops. 'Just like Kafupi's acquittal, the NGO Act exemplifies the government's blatant celebration and
legalisation of corruption. The swallowing of civil society is best understood as a necessary component of this larger process.'
'But the government has always been
corrupt,' said Sara. 'What's new?'
'The new development,' explained Koops, 'is that corruption is now legalised. Previously the government used to get donor money on the pretext that they were fighting corruption, even though they weren't, and the donors knew they weren't. But now the government is boasting of its sovereign right to steal without donor interference, and the donors have been forced to admit they've been wasting their money.'
'So at least both sides are now telling the truth,' I said.
'Yes,' said Sara. 'Which means that all the diplomats can now go home. Diplomacy is necessary only when both sides are lying.'
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