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Political Activists Block Smooth PVO Amendment Bill Consultations

By Shingirai Vambe

The much awaited, returned for further scrutiny by the President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill consultation process has been hugely stalled by political activists alleged to be from the ruling ZANU PF Party, the Post can report.

Unlike other public consultations held by the Parliament of Zimbabwe across the country, the PVO bill has attracted numbers or participants contributing towards the amendment of the bill described to be harsh and operating tool of the ruling party against Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) believed to be supporting the Opposition political parties in Zimbabwe.

The request by citizens, is to revise and amend some provision in the PVO bill, with the Government wishing to acquire much power and duties considered to be for the PVOs.

The Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill aims to counter terrorism and money laundering in Zimbabwe as stated in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) treaty. It was published on March 1, 2024, and the main purpose is to comply with FATF recommendations made to Zimbabwe about the abuse of charities for the financing of criminal or terrorist activity.

Following input and submissions by CSOs, Legislators  of the 9th Parliament and the international community, the President, could not sign the bill, he sent it back to parliament for reconsideration with pressure from the international community. his main concern was that the Bill did not meet international best practices to prevent charitable trusts and other organizations from being used as a conduit for criminal and terrorist funds.

The revisions include a more detailed definition and interpretation of terms used in the principal Act, amending the definition of “private voluntary organisation” to ensure it covers all relevant organizations that fall under this law,  requiring non-testamentary trusts to now register because they receive external funding, including those non-testamentary trusts which have registered themselves with the Registrar of Deeds.

It is the understanding of various key stakeholders that citizens did not understand, neither was there proper dissemination of information regarding this bill to the citizens.

However, there is less interest and lack of political will to revise and amend the bill, as exposed by chaotic ending of public consultation in Harare, Ambassador Hotel, Gweru and Masvingo, where participants failed to contribute and effectively share their views and opinions regarding the Bill and its shot-falls.

Zimbabwe Republic Police had to dispatch riot police to the hotel.

Commenting on the circumstances, exiled former minister of environment and hospitality, Walter Mzembi said there was high political intolerance and bigotry is a terrible culture, which was recipe for civil conflict.

“Mobilising thugs to drown dissent to the bill is extremely unfortunate and barbaric,” said Mzembi.

The law largely affect citizens in rural areas depending more on donor funding, for instance now with half the population in need of food aid, rural communities are the most and politically affected.

The government of Zimbabwe has failed to transparently prove its capability on assisting citizens during dire times of need, rather government leaders claim they have available food and resources for the needy, however, since time immemorial, it has been politicised with those supporting opposition political parties being excluded from the beneficiaries, with the aid of rural leadership, Chiefs being used to solicit for votes and support of the ruling ZANU PF party.

Contrary to CSOs and NGOs, they have religiously supported the poor in marginalised areas with food and self sustainable projects, complementing the government effort of leaving no place and no behind in a clandestine manner of getting first hand money from development partners before it reaches the intended beneficiaries.

This has exposed government and the governing party on the promises they make during campaigns and the ministry of finance and economic development on annual budget, by failing to cater for its citizens, reason why the mentality of CSOs and NGOs are purportedly supporting the agenda of the opposition political parties which in actual sense is not a fact.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is not spared from the net together with Election Resource Centre (ERC) who are said to be among partners who are supporting rigime change agenda, when actual fact are supporting transparent run election in Zimbabwe, subscribing to international standards and best practice.

The Bill has attracted lots of people including countries where, most Zimbabweans have gone in search of greener pastures, some running away from politically connected attacks.

During the consultations, citizens fired Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for coming and starting the meeting late. the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, recently warned MPs who were snubbing Parliament that they should know it was tax payers money that they were abusing.

ZANU PF Legislators, who managed to come back after the 2023 election have shown no interest of amending and revising this bill as it largely subscribe to the wishes of the governing party. with the recent recalls and turnaround of representation in Parliament, regardless of the submissions during public consultation, little to no change is expected from this bill, as ZANU PF now hold two thirds majority in Parliament and has a majority vote.