By Anna Chibamu
THE out-going European Union (EU) Ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen has called on the government to not rush the controversial Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill into a law before holding wider consultations with all stakeholders.
Olkkonen said rushing the bill into a law might limit civil society organisations’ (CSOs) freedom of assembly and how they conduct their business once it is enacted into law.
Responding to questions from the media after paying a farewell courtesy call to Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda on Thursday, Olkkonen said the EU was concerned about what the bill might mean to the CSOs once it becomes an Act.
“We also had opportunities to address some topical issues that are on the legislative agenda. The PVO Bill which is now under deliberations in the Parliament. The EU has a number of concerns which this bill might mean in its current form if it is enacted into law. We had an exchange of views and on the bill,” said Olkkonen.
“We do have concerns on that bill that it would limit unnecessarily the civil society’s freedom of assembly and that there might be too many limitations of how they could conduct their business and that there might be some issues about how much it has been in compliance with the constitution of Zimbabwe.
” … and upholding those rights of citizens to associate and also some questions around whether it is excessive in the operation in the implementing the recommendations of the financial task force in terms of providing transparency for funding.”
He added, “We are all for transparency and for democratic control but the question is that with the legislation, our concern is that the baby will be thrown away together with the towel and there is need for wider consultations’ time so that different stakeholders are comfortable with the law that will enacted without rushing the bill into a law.”
CSOs have since condemned the bill.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH) and Citizens in Action Southern Africa (CIASA) expressed their deep concern over the negative impact this amendment will have on civic space and strongly condemn the intimidation of human rights defenders opposing it.
The Observatory and CIASA have urged the Zimbabwean authorities to withdraw the amendment and to refrain from attacking or intimidating all rights defenders.
PVO Amendment Bill, H.B. 10, 2021 also exposes the intention of the government to provide itself with legal tools to control and ultimately silence civil society.
Should it be adopted, the amended law would provide the government with wide powers to interfere in civil society organisations’ governance and activities.