By Darlington Gatsi
A non-governmental organisation, Amnesty International, has pleaded with President Mnangagwa to reject the contentious Private Voluntary Organisation amendment Bill saying it shrinks the democratic space in Zimbabwe.
The PVO amendment bill sailed through Senate, with all senators except Morgen Komichi voting for it to be passed into law.
The bill now awaits the assent of Mnangagwa to become law.
Amnesty International director for East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah in a statement said the proposed bill will cripple the civic space, derailing efforts to render humanitarian support.
“The PVO Amendment Bill in its current form threatens civic society organizations working on human rights in Zimbabwe. The proposed bill, if it becomes law, will have dire consequences, including restricting civic space and access to humanitarian support services in Zimbabwe as it will immediately render all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), not registered as PVOs, illegal.
“This bill, if passed by the president, could be used to deny registration of human rights organizations due to the work that they do, including defending rights such as freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
“The bill would also exacerbate the growing crackdown on civil society organizations, increase human rights violations and make it more difficult for the people to hold the government to account. There is a risk that employees and board members of NGOs could be arrested and subjected to punitive measures, including imprisonment, simply for doing their work,” said Chagutah.
The bill will give the government to monitor NGOs’ financial status and how they are used.
Government claims some NGOs are laundering money and supporting opposition political parties.
Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has defended the bill saying the law would improve transparency of NGOs.
However, observers believe the bill will stifle NGOs which have been championing humanitarian aid with estimates saying the country will likely lose US$1 billion annually as a result of the PVO amendment.
Chagutah added: “President Mnangagwa must use his leadership position to reject this bill as it is repressive. The President must ensure that this bill is never signed into law. Any future law must fully reflect international human rights standards and reaffirm the country’s human rights obligations towards the promotion and protection of the human rights of everyone including those who work to defend the rights of other people. NGOs must be allowed to operate freely and to do their work without any reprisals”.