Zanu PF Activists Block PVO Amendment Bill Hearing

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By Mandipa Masenyama

PROCEEDINGS of the proposed Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill Monday ended prematurely in Highfields, Harare after a provocative attack by suspected Zanu PF activists who disrupted the public hearing.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) highlighted the proceedings ended prematurely because of suspected rowdy Zanu PF activists who were seeking to dominate the public hearing.

“The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition witnessed the violent disruption of the PVO Amendment Bill public hearing in Highfields, Harare on February 28, 2022. The public hearing ended prematurely after Zanu PF activists, who were seeking to dominate the event, disrupted the proceedings,” the CiZC said.

It then urged the ruling Zanu PF government to be rational and to exercise tolerance of divergent views.

“The coalition condemns violence of any nature and notes that such acts are likely to compromise citizens’ participation in these public hearings and ultimately lead to a flawed process. We deplore the violent nature by Zanu PF activists and implore the ruling party to exercise tolerance of divergent views.

“We reiterate that amendments to the PVO Act are part of efforts to close the democratic space in Zimbabwe and citizens must unite in rejecting these amendments which will curtail fundamental freedoms and entrench authoritarian rule,” said the Coalition.

The CiCZ also dismissed allegations of offering an initiative of US$15 each as a bribe for citizens to go and register to vote.

“On another note, we dismiss with contempt, malicious allegations by a Zanu PF activist during the public hearing that the coalition is offering an initiative of US$15 (each) for citizens to go and register to vote,” the Coalition added.

According to civic society groups (CSOs), the proposed PVO Amendment Bill is a ploy by the government to silence them as they stand. PVOs are public-benefit bodies or associations of persons or institutions that carry out humanitarian and charity work or provide legal aid. The PVO Amendment Bill was gazetted in November 2021 and seeks to amend the PVO Act, but CSOs have raised concerns that the suggested amendments will restrict their work and violate human rights while negatively affecting communities who depend on their work.

Among other things, the PVO Amendment Bill imposes ‘unfair’ restrictions on CSOs and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by proposing harsh penalties, including jail time of up to one year for NGO registration framework-related perceived offences, a new requirement that the Bill seeks to introduce.