BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE/ HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
GOVERNMENT has remained adamant and is pushing for passage of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill, despite it being red-flagged over provisions that give excessive powers to the Public Service and Social Welfare minister to interfere in non-governmental organisations (NGOs)’ operations.
The Bill is widely viewed as oppressive and seeking to ban operations of some NGOs ahead of the country’s 2023 watershed polls, and to gag NGOs that speak out on human rights abuses and demand transparency, rule of law and accountability from government.
On Tuesday, Public Service minister Paul Mavima introduced the Second Reading Stage of the Bill in the National Assembly, where he told legislators that he was happy with the Bill despite criticism from many quotas.
“I am happy with the Bill as it stands at the moment. This is a Bill that will bring order into the PVOs sector. It will make sure that there is clarity on how PVOs are registered and are supposed to operate and the specific mandates and geographical areas, and the level in our country at which they are supposed to operate, be it at the district, provincial or national level,” Mavima said.
He indicated that the provisions in the Bill were clear about the mechanisms that government would use to co-ordinate PVOs’ activities.
“There is also clarity and adequate safeguards against money-laundering and the proliferation of terrorism which is an international requirement, and which we have to abide by as Zimbabwe. So, I am very happy with the Bill as well as the amendments that we have proffered,” Mavima said, noting that the law would ensure that donors who support NGOs are not anonymous.
“If the donor is anonymous, the private voluntary organisation must satisfy itself by other means that the donor is acting in good faith within the law and that the donation is made in good faith without intent to evade the law,” he added.
Zimbabwe has been perennially accused of being hostile to civic society organisations (CSOs), accusing them of engaging in regime change agendas.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently declared war on civic groups, accusing them of being appendages of foreign powers and diplomats seeking to effect regime change.
Legal think-tank Veritas, however, feels that the Bill is marred by “vagueness and incoherence”.
“The minister’s amendments will not improve the Bill to any material extent. The Bill, as we have said before, is marred by vagueness and incoherence. The amendments will not do a complete job even in clarifying the Bill — for example, the definition of ‘material change’ in clause 6 remains gibberish,” Veritas spokesperson Valentine Maponga said, adding that the Bill would affect CSOs’ freedom of speech.