Revisit NGO Bill, churches urge govt

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BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE

CHURCH leaders have urged the government to reconsider the proposed Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, adding that if allowed to sail through in its current form, the proposed law will affect the country’s health and education sectors, which the government is struggling to fund.

The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD), which comprises leaders of Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and Union for Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA), said the provisions of the PVO Amendment Bill would affect humanitarian services and further expose the vulnerable to extreme poverty.

Government gazetted the PVO Amendment Bill on November 5, whose provisions will adversely affect or eliminate civic society organisations (CSOs) involved in promoting and defending human rights in the country.

“If the Bill becomes law, it has the potential of complicating the charity and humanitarian services that the churches provide through their health, education, church and para-church organisations that are currently registered as trusts,” ZHOCD said in a statement yesterday.

“Undue restrictions on sources of support may also expose vulnerable groups to extreme poverty as some of our funders are the faithful based overseas.”

The churches said the Bill also came at a time when churches, through their trusts, were supporting the education and health sectors in the country, which are currently underfunded by the government.

“As the church, we are guided by the church teachings on the principle of subsidiarity and believe that authority to run PVOs should actually be decentralised so that there is more participation of the PVOs in issues that affect their operations.”

The church leaders urged the government to come up with laws that do not affect vulnerable communities.

“As the church, we are willing to engage further on how State and non-State actors could work together in a transparent and complementary way,” they said.

In December last year, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches said it would approach Parliament over the Bill.

The PVO Amendment Bill has been heavily criticised by analysts, who argue that the government is shrinking the democratic space to crush dissenting voices.

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