‘We’ll sue govt over contentious PVOs Bill’

LEGAL experts have threatened to drag government to the Constitutional Court if the contentious Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Bill is passed into law in its current
state.

Zimbabwe is currently crafting the PVOs Amendment Bill which is before the National Assembly and has been internationally criticised for clauses that are likely to ban operations of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Critics say the Bill gives too much power to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister to register and de-register NGOs, as well as to demand disclosure of their sources of funding.

Expects have argued that the Bill is unconstitutional and will result in employees at civic society organisations losing their jobs through closure of some associations.

Speaking in Harare yesterday at a media workshop organised by Veritas Zimbabwe on the PVOs Amendment Bill, Veritas programmes manager Lizwe Jamela said if the Bill was assented into law by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the only way to test its constitutionality would be by taking it to the Constitutional Court.

“The Bill is unconstitutional, it violates section 34 of the Constitution. If the Bill passes in its current form, as Veritas, we will do public interest litigation, and we will take it to the Constitutional court,” Jamela said.

Top lawyer and a human rights defender, Brian Crozier said the Bill did not comply with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.

“The Bill is incoherent and badly drafted. It is unconstitutional and does not bring the PVOs Act that is being amended into line with FATF recommendations. We don’t want the Bill to be passed in its current form,” Crozier said.

“The measures will disrupt and discourage the work of PVOs, particularly those that engage in civil rights activities that could be construed as political.”

Veritas director, Val Ingham-Thorpe also said the Bill would curtail freedom of speech.

“Zimbabwe will be seen as a more repressive State if that Bill is passed. There will be huge censorship and prisoners taking long to get bail. It will infringe people’s rights. So, senators should improve the amendments to the Bill,” Ingham-Thorpe said.

The PVOs Amendment Bill is at the Committee Reading Stage in the National Assembly.

It has been criticised by international organisations that view it as a government ploy to close the democratic space ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Meanwhile, in a statement yesterday, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) called for withdrawal of the Bill saying it would restrict civic space and access to humanitarian support services in the
country.

“The consultation processes that were conducted in relation to the original draft of the Bill were conducted in bad faith, as CSOs’ concerns have been entirely disregarded, with the proposed amendments introducing even greater restrictions to the rights to freedom of association and administrative justice,” said Zimcodd in a statement.

“This violates the public’s constitutional right to participate in law-making, as the authorities have a constitutional obligation to consider the views of the public in terms of section 141 of the Constitution.

“Parliament is required to facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the processes of its committees, and Parliament must conduct its business in a transparent manner.”Newsday

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