Journalists urged to understand, critique PVO Bill

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BY NHAU MANGIRAZI

THE media has been challenged to study and understand provisions of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill in order to effectively communicate its implications on communities.

The PVO Amendment Bill will amend the Private Voluntary Organisations Act, giving the State unfettered powers to snoop into operations of civic society organisations (CSOs), trusts and other humanitarian organisations.

The Bill will effectively criminalise the operations of CSOs as it proposes harsh penalties, including closure of the organisations and jail terms of up to a year for breaches.

Government argues that the proposed law would help curb money-laundering.

Speaking during a group discussion in Chinhoyi yesterday, several participants said the PVO Amendment Bill was likely to infringe democratic principles, but should be scrutinised from an informed position.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa Zimbabwe) trustee Davidson Maruziva said there was need for alternative views regionally and internationally on the proposed law.

“As media, we must have a robust understanding on why the PVO Amendment Bill is being introduced ahead of the 2023 general elections. We must be open to each other as Zimbabweans,” Maruziva said.

He said there was need for the media to disseminate correct information on the proposed law so that communities fully understood it.

Combined Chinhoyi Residents chairperson Tendai Musonza said the Bill had sinister motives as it had provisions to “prohibit political lobbying” by PVOs.

“This is a sinister motive as the vetting of PVOs that will be allowed to operate will be done by the government. As residents associations, we demand transparency on governance from elected officials and they must be accountable to the citizens. It’s unfortunate that the democratic process will be hijacked against the majority of citizens by those pushing for this Bill,” Musonza said.

He said the proposed law would muzzle the watchdog role of CSOs.

“Power balance will be affected. The broader picture will be hindered,” he said.

A member of the Chinhoyi Residents Trust Peter Luwanda,who unpacked the PVO Amendment Bill, said NGOs had been supporting the government through charity work, for example, during cyclones and other natural disasters.

“It is our suspicion that the PVO Amendment Bill is aimed at targeting dissenting voices,” Luwanda said.

Centre for Youth Empowerment Development Trust co-ordinator Clifford Musangeya said the Bill gave too much power to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister to vet PVOs for registration, and will severely affect governance issues.

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