PVO Amendment Bill violates freedom of association

PVO Amendment Bill violates freedom of association
PVO Amendment Bill violates freedom of association

The Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill (PVO Bill) which seeks to amend some sections of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act, violates freedom of association as provided for in the constitution.

Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution in 2013 to do away with the Lancaster House Constitution that had been in place since independence.

The new constitution provides for freedom of association in Section 58 and associations and organisations enjoy the same freedom.

However, the PVO Bill which was gazetted a few days ago is against PVOs associating with political parties, and Veritas Zimbabwe in its Bill analysis says this is wrong.

‘’Freedom of association under Section 58 of the Constitution extends to associating for political purposes, and this is reinforced by section 67 which says that every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to form, join and participate in the activities of political organisations.

‘’So, if an association wants to support or oppose a particular political party or candidate it should be allowed to do so, particularly if its members are Zimbabwean citizens.

‘’Registered PVOs may need some restrictions, to prevent funds donated for charitable purposes being diverted to politicians and their parties, but otherwise, they must be free to engage in legitimate political activities which fall within the objectives for which the organisations were established.

‘’It is quite conceivable, for example, that PVOs established to protect the environment might want to express support for a political party campaigning for measures to alleviate the effects of climate change.  They should be permitted to do this – indeed they have a right to do it.

‘’As to a PVO breaching Section 7 of the Political Parties (Finance) Act, it is hard to see how a registered PVO could possibly do this. But assuming it could, it should be prosecuted under that Act rather than under the PVO Act,’’ said Veritas.

Is PVO Bill seeking to cripple MDC Alliance?

Some political commentators believe the move to block PVOs from associating with political parties is targeted at crippling the MDC Alliance.

The Zanu PF led government has long believed that PVOs and NGOs are used as conduits to fund the MDC Alliance in Zimbabwe by foreign governments and embassies.

Political parties in Zimbabwe are prohibited from receiving foreign funding under the Political Parties Finance Act, this is despite the fact that the ruling party Zanu PF is always receiving support from China.

Just recently, the Zanu PF Women’s League was given ICT goods and gadgets by the wife of the Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe.   

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