Ziyambi defends PVOs Bill

JUSTICE minister Ziyambi Ziyambi

JUSTICE minister Ziyambi Ziyambi on Tuesday told Parliament that the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill is necessary in order to improve transparency of charities operating in the country, and to curb criminal activities by some of them that are funding political parties and candidates.

The PVO Amendment Bill is now at the Second Reading Stage in the National Assembly.

It has, however, been viewed by many including local non-governmental organisations as oppressive because its provisions will effectively eliminate civil society organisations (CSOs) involved in promoting and defending human rights in the country.

CSOs  have already red-flagged the proposed amendments saying they will render around 280 000 people jobless because the Bill gives the State powers to de-register CSOs, snoop on their operations, and also criminalise their work and proposes harsh penalties, including a closure of organisations and jail term of up to a year for breaches.

Ziyambi said although the work being done by CSOs in the country should be applauded, those who failed to abide by the law would be de-registered.

“The Bill is a very necessary measure to improve administration, accountability and transparency of charities in our country. Our country benefits very much from the work of those PVOs which operate within our borders,” Ziyambi said.

“PVOs provide support to communities in a wide range of areas and we as the government are very grateful for the work done by PVOs. They have access to resources, experience and expertise that is needed for development.  Therefore, from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of the government, I would like to thank them for their good work.

“This Bill does not speak to those law-abiding PVOs,  but to the few  who may be tempted to use the disguise of charity to carry out undesirable, harmful and even criminal activities. For example, we  have received  communication from the  financial  national task force that some charitable trusts are being misused as a means of channelling  funds towards terrorism and other activities,” he said.

Noting that some charities have been politically partisan, and have directed money to their favoured political parties or political candidates Ziyambi said: “Partisan assistance using foreign money or money collected from the public under a charity must never be allowed to influence the outcome of national or local elections.”

The Justice minister said in many countries, such behaviour was deemed harmful.

“It is in this context that the Bill seeks to clean up the space within which the PVOs operate in.  For some time, the government has noticed that some charities have completely by-passed the PVOs Bill by forming trusts sanctioned by the High Court.

“It is still not our  intention to impose registration on this kind of private trust. However,  if it appears that any trust is using charity purposes to get foreign money not  generated by their own  activities and investments, or  is using money  collected from members of the public, then they must be investigated,” Ziyambi said.

He added that government’s wish was not to punish PVOs for assisting women and other vulnerable members of society, but was targeting those who abuse their resources, and act in a partisan manner by favouring communities on the basis of their support or expected political affiliation.

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