BY KENNETH NYANGANI
THE Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill (PVOs Bill) is already having a chilling effect on civil society organisations (CSOs), which are now afraid to speak out on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Several CSOs, which have been vocal on human rights issues in the past, were this week conspicuously mum on the alleged abduction of Citizens Coalition for Change activist Moreblessing Ali in Chitungwiza.
Human rights defender Farai Maguwu said the PVOs Bill had instilled fear in the human rights watchdogs, which would result in shrinking of democratic space.
“As CSOs, we have real challenges that we are facing. Most NGOs [non-governmental organisations] fear de-registration because of the PVOs law being crafted. We are going to suffer. This country still has a war mentality against critics. CSOs must unite and speak against this shrinking democratic space,” he said.
Human rights lawyer Passmore Nyakureba said: “The evidence is very clear that human rights and electoral clusters have not been active even on social media platforms because a hammer is waiting on their heads. They are no longer working normally as they used to do.”
Nyakureba said CSOs should be free to monitor government activities as provided for in the Constitution.
“The effects of the PVOs Bill are now being felt,” he said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa recently said the party would use its parliamentary majority to fast-track the Bill to deal with errant NGOs accused of working with Western countries to champion a regime change agenda.
The proposed law has been criticised for provisions that stifle operations of CSOs and exert government control on their operations.
Many fear the Bill would force the closure of some NGOs, while silencing human rights defenders who have been demanding transparency and accountability and an end to human rights abuses.