By Staff Reporter
The deregistration of 291 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) by the Zimbabwean government has sparked discomfort for those remaining as finalisation of the widely criticised Private Voluntary Act draws closer.
Labour and Social Welfare minister, Paul Mavhima said some were deregistered for national security reasons and some for straying from their mandate.
Among the deregistered was one of the oldest disability organisations Jairos Jiri but many of the affected were not active.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) director, Musa Kika said although the main organisations were not affected, it was too early to celebrate.
His sentiments come against a background where the controversial Private Voluntary Amendment Bill (PVO) is now before the senate awaiting presidential assent.
“It appears to be regular cleaning of the PVO register, as those deregistered are mostly old organisations many if not all of which may be defunct,” he said.
A similar process was done in 2021or 2022.
“However, this may have been timed such that when the PVO Amendment Bill comes into law and starts being implemented, and organisations start being deregistered, it appears normal,” said Kika.
He noted their worry as NGOs.
“Quite worrying also is the comment attributed to the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare that some have been deregistered for national security reasons and some for straying from their mandate.
“These will be become powerful tools of destruction of critical NGOs when the Bill becomes law.
“I think they are sending a messaging, covering their back, and preparing to go for active ones.
“Covering their backs in the sense that they are cleaning the register so that no one challenges them by saying why are you targeting active organisations when you are not cleaning up the defunct ones,” he said.
The Forum is a coalition of twenty-two human rights NGOs in Zimbabwe.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) director, Peter Mutasa concurred.
He said the recent event was a tip of an iceberg.
“We are gravely concerned by the manner in which the ZANU PF government is consolidating authoritarian rule,” he said.
“This deregistration of PVOs is just a tip of an iceberg for many other attacks on democracy are coming. It is sadly straight from colonial regime rule book.
“We call upon all Zimbabweans to unite and challenge this dictatorship for no one is spared,” Mutasa told NewZimbabwe.com.
The widely criticised PVO Amendment Bill sailed through the National Assembly in December last year sparking an uproar from critics.
If approved the law will give the State unfettered powers to snoop into operations of CSOs, trusts and other humanitarian organisations.
It also effectively criminalises the operations of CSOs, proposes harsh penalties including closure of the organisations and jail terms of up to a year for breach of its provisions.
For this, the Bill has always been regarded as draconian.