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PVO Bill public hearing abandoned as rowdy Zanu PF elements heckle participant opposed to proposed law

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By Anna Chibamu


A PUBLIC hearing of the controversial Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill (H.B 2024) was on Friday abandoned in Harare after a female participant spoke adversely about the proposed law, thereby sparking protests from suspected Zanu PF youths.

Sensing danger, Passionate Fuza who is communications officer for Zimbabwe Human Rights Monitors Platform, immediately left the venue, Ambassador Hotel, with ruling party youths baying for her blood singing derogatory songs such as ‘’Asingadi Bill ngaabude muZimbabwe, Bill redu tinorida; Hatidi zvekipihwa order nema suskum’.

”The reason why we are contradicting this Bill is that…some of these NGOs are not being influenced by political parties as being said. The minister has too much power on this Bill…How come he has the power to impose people from political parties to ……” said the ZINASU youth.

Before she could finish her submission, rowdy suspected Zanu PF hoodlums started heckling and ordering her to leave the venue.

Even during the booing, the young lady kept her composure and kept on giving her thoughts until she finished. She only decided to leave the place as the booing intensified.

The hearing lasted barely 10 minutes whilst the Joint Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the Thematic Committee on Gender Development members also left the hotel fearing for their safety.

Anti-riot police were later called-in and two trucks packed with officers parked at the hotel to disperse the singing crowd, which danced at the front of the hotel drawing attention to passers-by.

Those in support of the Bill argue Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were using the citizens as bait to get donations, which they then channel for personal use.

Others alleged the so-called NGOs were bringing in homosexuals to operate in the country against ‘’our’’ culture and traditional norms.

“As a Zimbabwean, I fully support the Bill. The central government must regulate the NGOs. The government must know who is behind each and every organisation and from where. It needs to know who is funding the CSOs as well and monitor transparency on their activities

‘’We now have some individuals and organisations who are benefiting from these foreign funded projects. If these CSOs are genuine, why is it that they are hiding behind a finger? Most of them are not civil at all and are keen to cause chaos in the country. We are peace-loving people, so I am saying this Bill is very welcome,’’ said one Mashanda.

One Advocate Pavari representing Zimbabwe Union of Churches, which comprises of 523 churches with 2 500 ordained pastors said, ‘’The Bill was the best thing that ever happened in Zimbabwe. The Bill talks about accountability. Every cent, every dollar should be accounted for.

‘’We are saying NGOs must not join any political party. We want openness, registration is crucial, the registrar must do his/her work.

‘’As Zimbabwe, we do not accept gays. We do not want their money. Let us die of hunger if we do not have money or food.  The Bill, is welcome.’’

Madzibaba Vepundutso said the bill should be accepted.

“We are having challenges of some people who were visiting our communities lately and now we are losing our cattle. Accountability is important. Let us have this Bill now.

A youth from Epworth had this to say, ‘’Kana isu tichiti vecivil society vanoita hold government accountable pama policies egovernment, ko ivo sei vasiri kuda kuti government iite account for its policies.

‘’Kana version ye whatsapp yephone yangu nyowani yandiinayo mubag umu iine two-way verification kuti ndaakuda kupinda ndambosiya phone, ndoda pin yekutanga neyechipiri, tadii kuita dual accountability, Government and CSOs working together and watching each other on transparency.

‘lni ndiri muyouth anobva ku Epworth. Vanhu ve Epworth tanzwa nekushandisirwa zita redu nokutsvaga mafunders. Tanzwa nokushandisirwa zita redu kunzi Epworth kune madrug abusers, kuEpworth but at the end of the day, CSOs get funds which never see the light of the day as we remain in abject poverty.

“If the CSOs have such an impact as they say, what will happen to our country if they work with the central government? Collaboration is what we want and come 2030, we are a middle-income economy,’’ the youth said.

In Masvingo some people were reportedly injured during skirmishes on the same Bill public hearings that were also abandoned as well as in Gweru.

The PVO Bill was brought back to Parliament by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last year after having passed the National Assembly and the Senate.

However, some CSOs representatives who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com after the abandonment of the public hearing said government must not close the civil space, but rather allow the National Association of NGOs (NANGO), that governs these organisations, to play a leading role in regulating them.

Director of Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), Farai Maguwu, said ‘’abuse of funds and women have taken place but these should be regulated by NANGO. Anyone who has been violated must report or appeal to this body that regulates the CSOs.

‘’In times of hunger, the government appeals to the international organisations for help. If the open space for NGOs on the ground is closed, many people are going to die of hunger and diseases in Zimbabwe,’’ Maguwu told NewZimbabwe.com.

Recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa appealed for food aid from donor partners after declaring a state of disaster in the wake of the El Nino induced drought, which threatens over 7.7 million people with starvation.

Veritas said the PVO Amendment Bill needs re-thinking.

‘’Part of the Bill on the prevention of terrorism or money laundering duplicates other laws. This will lead to confusion and over-regulation.

‘’Parts of the Bill will discourage PVOs from working in Zimbabwe and this will be a bad thing as the country already is surviving from handouts,’’ Veritas said in a statement.

Zimbabwe’s health sector relies more on donor funding more than the government budget share but still many people cannot access health services.

For example, local media this week reported that the country’s main referral hospital Parirenyatwa was failing to raise US$600 to get a technician to check the cancer machines which have not been fully functional for almost a decade resulting in preventable deaths.