ZANU PF has exposed its real reason behind the push for the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Bill, saying there is fear of a regime change plot backed by non-governmental groups, but legislators have warned of dire consequences if the proposed law is to pass.
The ruling party has vehemently supported the Bill to pass at any cost, citing several reasons, but on Wednesday its chief whip Pupurai Togarepi confirmed the only reason Zanu PF was afraid of the operations of PVOs was fear of regime change. He accused NGOs of working with the opposition and other forces unfriendly to the regime.
MPs debated the PVOs Amendment Bill after its second reading in Parliament with the chairperson of the portfolio committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Emma Ncube, saying there were mixed reactions on the issue during the public hearings.
The PVOs Amendment Bill was gazetted on 5 November 2021 and seeks to amend the PVOs Act [Chapter 17:05] in compliance with the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) recommendations.
Zimbabwe is a member of the FATF, an inter-governmental organisation founded in 1989 with the major objective of developing policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
“If we allow NGOs to go unregulated, what it means is we will be at the mercy of those who sponsor those NGOs to change our government when they want to disturb our politics whenever they want,” Togarepi said.
“We hear specific institutions, specific political parties, specific individuals, they are a clique who have benefited so much out of NGOs and they do not want the law.
They do not want the law and anyone who has got doubt that this Bill will pass through Parliament should just forget and smile.”
He accused NGOs of sponsoring anti-govenment demonstrations.
“So, the law has come at the right time. We cannot have a country that is run by an extension of other countries who would want to cause havoc in our country. Majority of those who are crying, those NGOs who are crying today, nobody would doubt their activities are clear, they are regime change agents,” the Gutu MP said.
He accused the NGOs of sponsoring conflict in communities.
“All the conflicts that we see in our societies, majority of them are sponsored by these NGOs. They are there, buying people food, beer, drinks, encouraging them to demonstrate and buying them T-shirts. You will see that they have got an agenda.”
Critics accuse Zanu PF governing the country badly and crushing citizens who express dissent.
Under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe has witnessed several protests including the 1 August 2018 shootings, January 2019 fuel increase protests, nurses and doctors’ job actions which Zanu PF thinks were sponsored mainly by the West.
In Ncube’s report, it emerged that some members of the public supported the Bill, stating that PVOs need to be regulated at a higher level since some of them abuse funds from donors for personal gain.
However, civil society organisations expressed reservations on the enactment of the Bill in its current form.
“There was a general sentiment that current laws adequately regulate PVOs in terms of accountability and curbing money laundering. These include: the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Act [Chapter 11:21], Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act [Chapter 24:24], Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07] and Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act [Chapter 9:24], amongst others,” the report reads.
“Stakeholders highlighted that the Bill vested too much power in the minister which reversed the spirit of devolution and may lead to misgovernance and corruption. It was noted that the clause bestowed upon the minister unfettered powers to interfere in the internal management of PVOs.”
Opposition MP Edwin Mushoriwa (Dzivaresekwa) described the Bill as “badly conceived and badly put together.”
“It is unconstitutional in several respects,” Mushoriwa said.
“If you analyse this Bill, you find that the minister has given himself powers that are ultra vires the Constitution. The powers that the minister is giving himself contravene section 68 of the constitution which guarantees
everyone the right to administrative justice. The question of making unilateral decisions without due process is not right.”
He said the minister was trying to get a lot of power from the Bill and this will be usurping the power of Parliament, violating section 134 of the constitution.
“If you analyse the Bill, it was crafted with a motive targeting certain civil societies in the governance areas. If you then check, this country got Independence in 1980 and you will realise that most of our freedom fighters got support from these civil societies and some of them were church run. It is wrong for a party that claims to be standing on the shoulders of revolutionary and liberation legacy to then try to cut the freedom that was bestowed by a hard and protracted Second Chimurenga War that ushered in this country in 1980.”
Mufakose MP Paurina Mpariwa said the passing of the Bill will affect livelihoods and vulnerable groups.
“In my opinion, it affects our livelihood because we do not have the required funds to assist the vulnerable groups, the children, the aged and women even in urban areas,” Mpariwa said.
“Then on the issue of PVOs, most employ Zimbabweans, meaning there was a lot of employment creation. When we had our public hearing, we were actually given the employment percentage which is about 22% employed by NGOs.”
“We have specialists who actually go out to other countries. They have PVOs who are here so our minister should take note of that. We are talking of education, medication, food as well as people’s welfare. Government needs assistance from others as it cannot do everything on its own. We have institutions like UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), and World Food Programme coming in to assist because if we experience hunger. We cannot sustain ourselves without the assistance of others.”
Matabeleland South proportional representation MP Sipho Mokone said: “If we accept the whole Bill as it is, it will mean that a lot of people who are employed by these NGOs will be retrenched or rather will lose their jobs because most NGOs will close. It will mean that the girl child and the boy child will be affected because I hope you know that most of these school children get payments from these NGOs.”
“The people who are living with disabilities will also be disadvantaged because it will mean that there are now few NGOs in Zimbabwe which can actually help. Some of these NGOs, when they go, it means that when we face a national pandemic like the one we are facing right now, Covid-19, it will mean that there will not be any NGOs to assist the government. These NGOs actually assist the government with humanitarian aid.”