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PVO Bill must fall away



LEGAL grouping Veritas says the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, which the government has been pushing to clamp down on non-governmental organisations, can no longer be revived in the 10th Parliament after it lapsed upon dissolution of the Ninth Parliament.


The government has been pushing for the PVO Bill, to ban “rogue” non-governmental organisations, which it says are being used as a stalking horse by the West to fund opposition political activity in the country.

However, the Bill has been discredited by civil society which says it is likely to promote corruption, among other vices, as it seeks to clamp down on organisations that have been promoting and providing oversight on resource management.

The PVO Bill had been propelled through both houses of Parliament, mainly due to Zanu PF’s majority in the Ninth Parliament, which saw the government passing laws that have throttled the democratic .

However, Zanu PF fell short of a two-thirds majority in the 23 and 24August 23 general elections, garnering 136, out of 210 seats, with the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) winning 73.

This week, President Mnangagwa sent the Bill back to Parliament for consideration. However, Veritas says the Bill had already lapsed before Mnangagwa had referred it back.

“We did say that Bills which had passed through the National Assembly and the Senate, but had not been signed by the President and published in the Gazette, lapsed when Parliament was dissolved just before polling day in the general election, and this applied to the PVO Amendment Bill,” reads an analysis by Veritas spokesperson Valentine Maponga.

“Our reasoning was this: In terms of section 147 of the constitution: ‘On the dissolution of Parliament, all proceedings pending at the time are terminated, and every Bill, motion, petition and other business lapses. A Bill that has passed through the National Assembly and the Senate, but has not been assented to by the President, is still a Bill and seems to be covered by the clear wording of section 147. There is also a general rule or convention applicable in countries with a parliamentary system such as ours, that no Parliament should bind its successor, and hence all Bills — including those that are awaiting assent by the Head of State — lapse when Parliament is dissolved.  This convention is articulated in section 147, so arguably it applies in this country. The President’s assent to a Bill after Parliament has been dissolved should not serve as a means by which one Parliament binds its successor’.”

The legal and parliamentary affairs think-tank said the only course left for the government to resuscitate the Bill, is for the minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to start it all over again in Parliament.

Although Standing Order 171 of the National Assembly and Standing Order 162 of the Senate allow Bills lapsed at the end of a session to be revived, these do not apply to Bills which have lapsed as a result of a dissolution of Parliament.

“The Standing Orders themselves say so. The Parliament that was dissolved before elections was the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe. The one that has just been sworn in is the Tenth Parliament of Zimbabwe. It is a different Parliament and, by virtue of section 147 of the constitution, it cannot be bound by the unfinished business of its predecessor,” reads the analysis.

“It is a fitting end to the Bill. It was a most unsatisfactory one:  vague, badly drafted and in many respects unconstitutional. The President himself had such serious reservations about it that he referred it back to Parliament. The new minister should take the opportunity to reconsider it completely, perhaps even to scrap it.”

Several other Bills likely to be referred back to Parliament are also set to benefit from the lapse.

For instance, three other Bills, the Child Justice Bill, the Institute of Chartered Loss Control and Private Security Management Bill, and the Police Amendment Bill have also passed through both Senate and National Assembly, but have not yet been gazetted into Acts.

“The Medical Services Amendment Bill and the Mines and Minerals Bill, for example, aroused much controversy during their passage through the National Assembly are therefore likely to benefit from the lapse,” read the report.

“The Child Justice Bill is inconsistent with the Children’s Act, as we pointed out and should be amended, while the Institute of Chartered Loss Control and Private Security Management Bill is in some respects misconceived.”

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