PVO Bill will not affect law abiding citizens

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

PVO Bill will not affect law abiding citizens
 Minister Ziyambi

Zvamaida Murwira

Senior Reporter

The provisions of the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill, with its tightening up of financial accounting and insistence on a PVO remaining solely within its listed functions, will not affect law abiding organisations, but were designed to deal with criminals using charity, legislators have heard.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said some charity organisations were acting in a politically-partisan way by channelling money to preferred political parties and candidates.

Minister Ziyambi said this in the National Assembly last Thursday during the Second Reading stage of the PVO Amendment Bill.

“We, as Government, are very grateful for the help given by the PVOs. The best PVOs have access to resources, experience and expertise solely needed by the people they benefit. Therefore, from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the Government, I would like to applaud you for the great work you are doing. 

“Accordingly, Mr Speaker Sir, this Bill does not speak to those law abiding PVOs I have just mentioned, but to the few who may be tempted to use the guise of charity to carry out undesirable, harmful and criminal activities,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“For instance, when this Bill was first introduced, we had received communication from the Financial Action Taskforce which is the world’s police against money laundering that some charitable trusts are being misused as a means for channelling funds to fund terrorism and other criminal activities or to launder the proceeds of criminal activities by buying properties in Zimbabwe and other countries.”

He said one of the essential elements that the PVO Amendment Bill is to criminalise those organisations that fund political parties and candidates, thus deviating from its core mandate.

“We are also, as the Government, aware that some so-called charities act in a politically-partisan manner by directing money to favoured political parties or candidates at the expense of other political parties or candidates. Partisan assistance using foreign money or money collected from the public under the guise of charity must never be allowed to influence the outcome of national or local elections. In many developed countries, this kind of behaviour is understood to be harmful to the very idea of charity,” he said.

Minister Ziyambi said the Bill was a necessary measure to improve the administration, accountability and transparency of charities in our country. 

Government, said Minister Ziyambi, had noticed that some so called charities had bypassed the Private Voluntary Organisations Act by forming “trusts” sanctioned by the Registrar of Deed, Companies and Intellectual Property. 

“It is still not our intention to impose registration on these kinds of private trusts. We want such trusts to be accountable in the eyes of the public on the sources of their funds and the use to which they are put,” he said.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare chairperson and Bindura Shamva MP, Cde Dorothy Mashonganyika (Zanu PF) said they were given opinions from the public hearings they conducted.

“There were fears from CSOs and some members of the public that the Minister might use the powers given on Clause 9 of the Bill to punish or close the PVOs perceived to be supporting political activities resulting in loss of employment and humanitarian support,” she said. The Committee recommended that the timeframe for registration of the PVOs should be extended to at least nine months to allow proper vetting and submission of all necessary paperwork from the PVOs.

“In terms of dealing with appeals from the decisions of the Registrar of PVOs, the High Court should be the highest authority instead of the Registrar, to allow the right to appeal and the right to a fair hearing,” she said.

Dzivaresekwa MP, Mr Edwin Mushoriwa (CCC) felt that the Bill was being brought at a wrong time when the country had extended a begging bowl to the international community owing to the El Nino-induced drought.

“We cannot, Madam Speaker, at a time when we are at our lowest, when we need to be assisted, we then bring such a Bill. When you go through this Bill, Madam Speaker, you will realise that this Bill does not mean good for this country,” he said.

Zvimba South MP, Cde Taurai Malinganiso (Zanu PF) described the Bill as good and progressive.

“The Bill, in my view, is good Bill, as I have alluded to. We are a sovereign nation that ought to be governed by its own laws and the rules cannot be changed to suit the whims and caprices of individuals or groups that seek to derail the progress we are seeking to author as a nation,” he said.

Shamva South MP, Cde Joseph Mapiki (Zanu PF) urged legislators to support the Bill to protect the sovereignty of the country.