BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/PRESTIGE MUNTANGA
INDEPENDENT research body, Sivio Institute has warned that the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill may drive away humanitarian agencies, impacting on food security.
Already, food monitoring agencies such as the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) have warned of drought-induced hunger owing to the poor rains.
In its policy brief on the potential effects of the PVO Amendment Bill on community philanthropy, Sivio Institute urged the government to suspend the Bill and make further consultations.
In November last year, government gazetted the PVO Amendment Bill that seeks to regulate the operations of civic groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trusts.
“Civil society organisations (CSOs) are globally recognised as credible sites of innovations and leadership development,” Sivio Institute said.
“Locally, innovations such as Pfumbvudza and rainwater harvesting were first developed and piloted by NGOs before being adopted by the government. Traditional systems such as zunde ramambo/isiphala seNkosi have been refined by NGOs to create community resilience. The two were agrarian measures adopted by civil society through its participation in impoverished communities to enhance food security.”
Sivio Institute implored the government to consult widely with various stakeholders, including communities that have survived on food handouts during the drought season.
“Government should consider an actor-led approach in the registration and compliance of entities within civil society. Such a process does not necessarily have to exclude government,” Sivio Institute said.
“There could be a government representative in such a proposed council. However, the most important part would be the creation of processes and procedures that allow for ease of registration and ongoing compliance with clearly defined conditions on what happens in the event of non-compliance. Such an approach would be conducive for other partners such as funders and beneficiary communities.”
In Bulawayo, civic groups warned that the 95% rural health institutions that survive on handouts from NGOs face collapse if the Bill is passed into law in its current state.
“Half of the health sector is funded by the civic society organisation and passing the Bill will see all clinics collapsing. NGOs have been playing a huge role in financing thehealth sector,” Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association organiser Melusi Ndlovu said.
Government has defended the Bill as necessary to regulate the CSOs whom it accuses of pushing a regime change agenda. Critics have argued that the government seeks to railroad the Bill to silence critics.