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PVOs is a shameful law, and Zim will regret its passage

Parliament of Zimbabwe

SO, the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Bill has moved a step closer to becoming law after senators rubber-stamped the shoddy work and chicanery by their peers in the National Assembly last month.

With general elections about six months away, the Zanu PF government is moving at supersonic speed to muzzle critics of its endemic maladministration and graft that has rendered Zimbabwe a basket case. This regime will not welcome any critiquing of its failures that have put most of its adult population out of formal work and onto the streets as ‘self-employed entrepreneurs,’ a colourful phrase to describe how the vast majority of people are having to hustle on the streets to eke out a living.

The PVOs Bill is a shameful, self-serving law. Its proponents are not concerned about the long-term effects it will have on the organisations that serve the very people government has failed to provide social safety nets for, or how it will exacerbate hunger in a country prone to climate change shocks and droughts that have made over half of its population dependent on handouts from the donor community. These are the same organisations the government is seeking to boot out of the country using this controversial piece of legislation.

Common sense seems to have deserted our lawmakers.

Firstly, Zanu PF MPs rushed the Bill through without participation of opposition members, who later complained that they were denied a chance to contribute to debate on the Bill. They were not in the chamber (well, their fault really. Talk of sleeping on duty!) and could not contribute virtually because Parliament’s virtual platform was not working properly due to lack of connectivity.

The august House does not have a great experience with technology. On Tuesday, virtual public consultations on the Electoral Reform Bill had to be abandoned midway after it was hijacked and pornographic material posted on the platform.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi’s defence of the Bill is laughable: "This Bill does not speak to those law-abiding organizations, but those who come in the guise of charity to carry out undesirable harmful and criminal activities.  For instance, we received communication from the Financial Action Taskforce that some charitable trusts are being misused as a means of channelling funds to fund terrorism and other criminal activities."

The Bill’s biggest proponent, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has never been shy about why he wants the Bill passed into law yesterday. “I am ready to sign this Bill into law once Parliament has done its part. Those peddling or (are) saddled with foreign interests and agendas have a lot to worry about, we will act on them once we establish they have betrayed their mandate. This includes banning and kicking them out of our country,” Mnangagwa wrote in his column in a State-owned weekly recently.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has already warned that the struggling economy stands to lose about US$1 billion annually if the PVOs Bill becomes law.

Its executive director Musa Kika yesterday captured this shameful development with clarity: “The senators that voted for this Bill know that it is a bad law, save for a few disillusioned ones. They know they are putting political expediency over our democracy, over citizens’ interests and over the welfare of the people. It is a shameful development, and it will come back to bite us all as a people.”

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