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Rethink on PVOs Bill: EU

Local News
Outgoing EU head of delegation, Timo Olkkonen said this yesterday when he paid a courtesy call on Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda.

BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA THE European Union (EU) yesterday urged Parliament to take the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill back to the people for further consultation because some of its provisions would restrict freedoms of civic society organisations in the country.

Outgoing EU head of delegation, Timo Olkkonen said this yesterday when he paid a courtesy call on Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda.

After a closed meeting, Olkkonen told journalists that the EU was concerned about some oppressive laws that the country is crafting, including the PVOs Amendment Bill.

“The European Union has a number of concerns over what this Bill might mean if enacted into law in its current format,” Olkkonen said.

“We do have concerns on that the Bill will unnecessarily limit the freedoms of civil society, their freedom of assembly, and that there might be too many limitations on how they could conduct their business.”

He said there were some questions around whether it was excessive in its implementation of the recommendations of the Financial Action Taskforce in terms of providing transparency for funding.

“We are all for transparency and democracy, but the question is that with this piece of legislation, is the baby not going to be thrown out with the bucket?” Olkkonen said.

“There is need for further consultations with different stakeholders so that all parties will be comfortable with the law that will be enacted. It should not unnecessarily be rushed, and there should be time for downward consideration on the provisions of the Bill.”

But Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said MPs had already debated the Bill as representatives of the people.

“His (EU ambassador’s) statement does not state in what way the freedoms are restricted. So, it is very difficult to comment on it because he did not indicate how it does that. Secondly, Parliament as a House of representatives of the people, has the authority of the people when it debates and passes laws,” Ziyambi said.

“I am not aware how freedom of assembly will be affected by the Bill. When assembling, give regard to other people’s rights. So where competing rights exist, one side cannot claim full rights.”

The proposed law is deemed oppressive by civil society organisations as it seeks to regulate their operations, and give too much powers to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister to register and de-register non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Government says the Bill will curb money-laundering, terrorism financing and ensure that NGOs disclose their sources of funding.

The Bill is viewed as targeting those NGOs that have been outspoken on human rights abuses, corruption and bad governance in the country.

Olkkonen said the EU was concerned about the human rights situation in the country, with discussions with government having been held on the issue.

On sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, Olkkonen said: “EU restrictive measures are limited to arms embargo and measures on the Zimbabwe Defence Industries. I heavily contest that there is no extra-territorial nature in them. They are basically guidelines for EU member States and EU operators on how to conduct business. They are not really illegal and, indeed, the EU has recently lifted a number of those measures.”

He also stressed that the country needed free, fair and peaceful 2023 polls.

“I hope the 2018 free environment during the campaign period will be replicated and that there will be opportunities to assembly.  It is important for democratic processes,” Olkkonen said.

Follow Harriet on Twitter @harrietchikand1

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