BY VANESSA GONYE/LORRANE MUROMO
HEAL Zimbabwe director Rashid Mahiya has expressed concern over the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill, saying the proposed provisions threaten the existence of civil society organisations and may lead to the closure of many.
“We see that as an infringement to the citizens’ right to association. We are fighting that as civil society. We see the civil society space being closed. We want a solution, and that’s why we are having this reflection,” Mahiya said on the sidelines of the commemorations of the International Human Rights Day in Harare on Friday.
“The proposed law, seeks to put a super minister who decides who sits in civil society organisation boards, or can suspend the leadership of non-governmental organisations, he said.”
“Our major concern is to look at the implications of all the discussions in having peaceful elections in 2023. We are also looking at what we can do to ensure that we have peaceful elections as well as to try to ensure and encourage peaceful elections,” Mahiya said.
He said given the trends they were seeing , there had been a deterioration of human rights in the country since 2017.
“The State is closing the space and we see a lot of legislation, a lot of media laws that have been put in place, and the PVO Amendment Bill which seeks to shrink the operating space. We are saying that given the rise of vigilante groups and abductions from 2017, it’s an indication that the 2023 elections might be a violent election. We are trying to see what we can do collectively as civil society and citizens to make sure that citizens can peacefully participate in the elections,” Mahiya said.
Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust director Alice Kuvheya also expressed concern over the PVO Amendment Bill saying if enacted, it would have a negative impact on the rights of citizens.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said it would lobby government and Parliament, as well as electoral stakeholders to craft policies that ensured the participation of special interest groups in elections and economic sectors.
It said since Zimbabwe was signatory to the Southern African Development Community principles and guidelines governing democratic elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance among others it should ensure participation of everyone in democracy, elections and governance.
“When there are no principles of human rights, democracy suffers. Zesn is lobbying government, Parliament and key electoral stakeholders to foster policies that do not create a democratic deficit or disenfranchise
women and men, People with Disabilities, youths and special groups in elections,” the said in a statement.