Anti-PVOs Bill solidarity riles govt

Zimbabwe Parliament

GOVERNMENT has come out guns blazing against international human rights organisations standing in solidarity with local civic society organisations (CSOs) opposed to the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVOs) Bill currently before Parliament.

This follows a plea by several international organisations for the Zimbabwean government to reverse the PVOs Amendment Bill at the on-going 73rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Gambia.

After different international CSOs criticised the proposed law for being oppressive, Justice ministry secretary Virginia Mabhiza said they had limited knowledge of Zimbabwe’s legislative space, hence they should distance themselves from airing views on the Bill.

Mabhiza described local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which challenged the proposed law as “rogue”.

“I wish to correct false and misleading submissions regarding the legislation to govern operations by CSOs as presented by two speakers who are perhaps unfamiliar with how we operate because I don’t know those organisations. No wonder they were not very clear,” Mabhiza said.

“On the contrary, accusations of a shrinking civic space are a false narrative premised on false claims by rogue CSOs against the proposed PVOs Act whose purpose is monitoring NGOs in humanitarian and development assistance to ensure effective harmonisation of existing governmental structures.

“It’s only a Bill and it was crafted to comply with the Financial Action Task Force. In view of the falsehoods, I, therefore, pray that the submissions that have been made be expunged from your record if you have recorded them, as false and misleading. The PVOs Amendment Bill which is now before Parliament is a result of an inclusive consultative process. It seeks to address the deficiencies relating to anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing,” she said. 

Prior to Mabhiza’s assertions, co-ordinator at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria Trésor Makunya said: “Civil society is critical for the protection of the right to protest, it should map the violations and change negative governmental behaviours including arresting lawyers who defend protesters.”

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director Roselyn Hanzi accused some African Union member States of being opposed to the ACHPR dictates also known as the Banjul Declaration.

“Civic society is willing, but some AU member States want a captured society that sees no evil and hears no evil, but says yes, yes and cheers on AU States who fail to fulfil their Banjul Charter obligations. These States must accept that CSOs play a critical watchdog role first,” Hanzi said.

In his opening remarks, chairperson of the ACHPR Remy Ngoy Lumbu said he was concerned over attempts to criminalise NGOs through introduction of oppressive laws.


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