BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
CIVIL Society Organisations (CSOs) claim that Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi tricked them into believing that their submissions to the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill would be considered in Parliament.
Various CSOs representatives said they met Ziyambi as the leader of government business in the National Assembly on April 11, 2022 and raised various concerns pertaining to the Bill.
Public hearings on the Bill were also held throughout the country during which members of the public and civic society gave their views on the Bill, but they now feel that their views were ignored.
The Bill reportedly gives too much power to Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister to register and de-register NGOs. CSOs also believe some clauses in the Bill are likely to stifle their operations.
Some of the contentious clauses include provisions that stipulate compulsory registration of NGOs and ministerial powers to interfere with their governance structures and criminalisation of “political support” and the “harsh” criminal penalties to be imposed on errant CSOs.
In a joint statement yesterday, NGOs that include the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, National Transitional Justice Working Group, Research and Advocacy Unit, Transparency International Zimbabwe and Veritas among others, said the proposed law restricted civic space and humanitarian support.
“When CSOs took the initiative to engage Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi on April 11, 2022, this was done in good faith. CSOs were made to understand that the minister, as the leader of government business in Parliament, and CSOs had found each other,” read the statement.
“However, to the utter shock and surprise of CSOs, the amendments that have now been introduced do the very opposite of what the minister had promised and committed to. The extensive amendments to the PVOs Amendment Bill are even more draconian and tantamount to introducing a completely new Bill. This removes the participatory element of our democracy (that citizens are entitled to), protected in section 141 of the Constitution, as such extensive alterations to the Bill were not subjected to public hearings and public consultations.”
Last week, government fast-tracked crafting of the PVOs Amendment Bill and sent it to the Committee Reading Stage with most opposition legislators not present in the House.
CSOs claim that some new amendments made on July 26, 2022 introduced new provisions that were never taken to public hearings for people to air their views on the suggested changes.
“The consultation processes that were conducted in relation to the original draft of the Bill were conducted in bad faith, as CSOs’ concerns have been entirely disregarded, with the proposed amendments introducing even greater restrictions to the rights to freedom of association and administrative justice,” the CSOs’ statement read.
They said fast-tracking and failure to subject the additional clauses to public hearings violated the constitutional right to consider the views of the public in terms of section 141 of the Constitution.
The CSOs called on Parliament to conduct its business in a transparent manner.
Efforts to get a comment from Ziyambi were fruitless as his number was not reachable. Justice ministry secretary Virginia Mabhiza’s mobile number was also not reachable.