Govt choking us: CSOs

Zanu PF political commissar Mike Bimha

Independent civic society organisations (CSOs) have accused the Zanu PF government of stifling their work by pushing the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill, while allowing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) affiliated to the ruling party to freely do electoral work.

The organisations have cited the alleged hijacking of voters roll inspection centres by Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), an organisation which Zanu PF political commissar Mike Bimha described as a civic group affiliated to the party.

The PVOs Amendment Bill has been criticised by opposition parties and CSOs for muzzling government critics and narrowing democratic space.

Different groups have described the move to allow Faz to operate as a watchdog during elections as hypocrisy, adding that the ruling Zanu PF party was only comfortable working with organisations which are its associates.

Project Vote 263 executive director Youngerson Matete said there was nothing wrong NGOs participating in politics because it is within the Constitution for them to do so.

“The attempt to muzzle critics is a new low in the second republic. Even the late former President Robert Mugabe never went that far,” Matete said.

“Zanu PF wants to work with NGOs whenever its suits them, and not when they raise alarm over bad governance, human rights abuses and corruption.   There is need for NGOs to continue educating members of the public about the PVOs Amendment Bill.”

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Obert Masaraure said the Bill was meant to strangle political dissent, while the ruling party continued to enjoy unfettered support from its legion of loyal NGOs.

“Progressive NGOs should step up and exercise their right to political participation and completely disregard the PVOs Bill. Zanu PF will never facilitate the enjoyment of rights and freedoms, people must assert their rights,” he said.

Election expert Solomon Bobosibunu said if civic groups affiliated to Zanu PF were allowed to dabble in politics, then laws must be applied uniformly.

"Creating barriers through legal instruments like the PVOs Bill curtails free will of participation and engagement. Such laws leave communitiesvulnerable as electoral watchdogs are removed and replaced with partisan institutions,” Bobosibunu said.

Girls Table director Samkeliso Tshuma said the PVOs Amendment Bill was a government tool to divide and conquer withouttaking into consideration that there are many NGOs with good intentions aside from politics.

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