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Jittery Zanu PF in fresh NGO threats

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. . . as PVO Bill faces public rejection

ZANU PF has issued fresh threats to private voluntary organisations (PVOs), accusing them of using violence and mobilising people to push a sinister political narrative in a fresh fight that has revealed the ruling party’s determination to silence dissent ahead of the 2023 general elections.

MOSES MATENGA

This follows what the non-governmental organisations said were overwhelming rejections of the PVO Amendment Bill by citizens across the country. Ordinary citizens and their communities have been the biggest beneficiaries of the operations of the organisations.

Last week, civil society organisations warned of dire consequences that include hunger, loss of millions of dollars in foreign currency, escalation of human rights violations and health crisis among others if Zanu PF’s call for the Bill to pass succeeds.

Zanu PF is pushing for the Bill, arguing that NGOs were working with the opposition parties to pursue a regime change agenda, hence the need to clip their wings.

 Zanu PF officials agitated by citizens’ negative sentiments to the Bill have warned that the law will not be stopped by what they see as a foreign-sponsored narrative.

“NGOs should respect our process and our laws, not make Zimbabwe their playground,” Zanu PF parliamentary chief whip Pupurai Togarepi (pictured) told The NewsHawks this week.

“The lawlessness we are seeing where some of these NGOs are bussing people to public consultation meetings should stop forthwith. The PVOs Bill is not for politicking but to bring sanity in the PVOs environment,” he added.

Togarepi said the NGOs who “stick to their mandate” and not delve into politics. He vowed that Zanu PF will emerge the winner even in the wake of public anger. On claims by the opposition that Zanu PF was fretting over the perceived alliance between the NGOs and the opposition that will likely derail its strategy ahead of the 2023 elections, Togarepi said the claims were “hogwash”.

 “It’s the usual hogwash from the same anti-Zimbabwe elements who believe they should not be subjected to the laws of this land yet in other jurisdictions they respect laws governing their operations,” the former Zanu PF youth league secretary said.

 “Those saying that are hypocrites. Every law goes through the law making process as stipulated in the constitution of Zimbabwe. We are currently at the public consultation stage and Zanu PF will listen to the people of Zimbabwe then act accordingly during debates and voting, should it come to that.

Togarepi boasted of the ruling party’s upper hand in the legislature, saying: “Don’t blame Zanu PF for its majority in Parliament unless someone wants to rewrite the basis of democracy.

Zanu PF is the voice of the majority and, if those we represent say so, then without fail the Bill will sail through.”

But human rights defenders said the PVO Amendment Bill in its current form is a danger to democracy.

 Southern Defenders team leader Washington Katema said: “The PVO Amendment Bill is a current and present existential threat to the in[1]dependent civil society and civic space for HRDs (human rights defenders) in Zimbabwe.”

“It is part of President Mnangagwa’s authoritarian consolidation agenda, which taken together with the Patriotic Bill and the general shrinking of democratic space, both online and offline, is a concerted attempt to lock up the playing field for democratic competition and citizen participation — and throw away the keys,” Katema said.

“Civic space is the oxygen for HRDs and its absence suffocates HRDs,” he added.

The Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development (Zimcodd) said PVOs were not enemies of the government but were aiding humanitarian work mainly in vulnerable communities. “PVOs are not the enemies of the state. Rather, they are public-benefit groups or associations of persons or institutions that conduct humanitarian work and provide humanitarian support to affected communities complimentary to government’s support,” the Zimcodd said.

Residents in Kariba told a public hearing that the involvement of the state in the running of NGOs was a threat to their independence, arguing it was the people who will suffer the consequences.

 “I am saying no to the Bill because, by definition, NGO means they are not regulated by the government. State involvement in the day-to-day running of PVOs will mean that communities will not benefit from NGO assistance,” a Kariba resident told a recent public hearing.

 “As young women in Kariba, we are getting family planning assistance from PVOs that our local clinics are failing to provide. We have received trainings from NGOs and if the Bill passes in its current form, as women, we will suffer.”

 President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Zanu PF government have publicly attacked NGOs, accusing them of siding with the opposition in pursuit of a regime-change agenda.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights and teacher organisations have been named as some of the organisations allegedly working against the government.

The rights lawyers represent victims of mainly state-sponsored violations, among others roles, while the doctors provide medical assistance to survivors of rights violations, explaining why they said have been targeted by the authorities.

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