By Thandiwe Garusa
CIVIL Society Organisations (CSOs) have called for the immediate withdrawal of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) amendment bill and urged government to initiate comprehensive consultations with the public and NGOs.
This comes after a lot of gaps were pointed out in the additional amendments to the bill.
In a statement the groups warned that if passed in its current form, the bill would have serious consequences like restricting civic space and access to humanitarian support services.
Several organisations backed the statement, including the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), Veritas, Amnesty International Zimbabwe.
“The Bill that was presented to the public has now been altered significantly and must be taken back to the public for consultations as mandated by the Constitution. Without this, the public’s due process and constitutional rights have been violated,” the groups said.
“The proposed bill, as amended, will have dire consequences of restricting civic space and access to humanitarian support services in Zimbabwe.
“Under the circumstances, CSOs call for the withdrawal of the bill, and the initiation of a comprehensive process of fresh consultations to be held with the public and CSOs.”
CSOs engaged justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi in April and agreed to include inputs that were suggested by the voluntary organisations in the amendment bill.
The minister did not however, proceed as had been agreed.
CSOs said the consultation processes conducted in relation to the original draft of the bill were done in bad faith, as their concerns have been entirely disregarded, with the proposed amendments introducing even greater restrictions to the rights to freedom of association and administrative justice.
“When CSOs took the initiative to engage minister Ziyambi Ziyambi on 11 April 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,” reads 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 PVO 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 privy to public hearings and public consultations.”
The PVO amendments bill introduces and stricter registration requirements, imposes harsh criminal and civil penalties for vaguely defined offences and completely remove the PVO board and create an executive and powerful office of a registrar of PVOs vested with all decision-making powers to register or deny registration to applicants for PVO status.