PVO Bill is vague and badly conceived says Mushoriwa
The PVO Amendment Bill is coming to give the government more power in regulating the operations of non-governmental organisations.
According to legal experts, if passed the law will allow the government to suspend the executives of NGOs and replace them with their chosen ones.
Among other things, the Bill will block NGOs from seeking for funding for their operations.
NGOs in Zimbabwe have been the lifeblood of many societies, especially in terms of healthcare, food security and empowerment among others.
Speaking in the National Assembly during the Second Reading of the Bill, Honourable Mushoriwa said the Bill is undesired as it reverses the gains of the liberation struggle.
‘’Thank you Madam Speaker for allowing me the opportunity to debate this Bill. Let me start by thanking our Portfolio Committee for the good report that they have presented. I want to start by saying that this Bill is badly conceived and badly put together.
‘’It is unconstitutional in several respects and I will explain to you Madam Speaker its vagueness in a number of clauses…
‘’Civic societies play a crucial role in the development of this country. It does not matter which field they are operating in. They have contributed immensely during the trying times of this country. If you analyse this Bill, you find that the Minister has given himself powers that are ultra vires the Constitution.
‘’The powers that the Minister is giving himself contravene Section 68 of the Constitution which guarantees everyone the right to administrative justice. The question of making unilateral decisions without due process is not right.
‘’Secondly, if you read this Bill, the Minister wants to get a lot of power that will go to the extent of trying to usurp the power of Parliament which violates Sections 134 of the Constitution.
‘’Making laws is our responsibility as Parliament but if you see the powers that the Minister seeks under the PVO Bill, is to ensure that he comes up with a regulation that may as well change the text of the Act as it stands.
‘’Thirdly, if you look at the Bill, it goes on to prohibit fundraising by trusts – even those trusts that came into being through the registration by High Court. What the Minister now wants to do is to extend his arm to all of them. It is not clear what the purpose of this provision is.
‘’Trusts are regulated under a different statute, and we do not understand why the Minister would want to abrogate or end up giving himself a lot of powers.
‘’Clause 5 of the Bill is also vague. The clause says NGOs or civic organisations will not be allowed to engage in political activities. The vagueness of it is on the definition of political activities because political activities mean anything to anybody.
‘’When the price of bread goes up you say something, it is actually political to someone and to some it is not. If you then look at it, again it violates Section 58 of our Constitution which guarantees freedom of association and it is buttressed by Section 67 which allows people to have the right to form, join and participate in the activities of a political organisation.
‘’The import of this clause is to simply say for instance if you got the war victims association, they can say you cannot venture into politics. You have got Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Union, the one that was joined by Honourable Chinotimba, they can say you cannot. If you look at it, you then understand that the manner in which it is made is actually not properly thought through and this is dangerous as we go forward,’’ he said.
The Dzivarasekwa legislator added that the minister is seeking to amass power through the Bill.
‘’If you analyse Clause 7 as reported by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, the Minister wants to amass powers to himself to make sure that he can actually suspend the executive committee of an NGO if, in his thinking, the NGO or the civic society is not operating to the mandate.
‘’The challenge is that the Minister wants to do an application to the High Court whilst the application has not been considered. He wants to give himself the power to unilaterally do that. This is patently unconstitutional because it violates the right to due process. This again shows you that this Bill was not properly crafted.
‘’If you then look at Clause 8 which has been highlighted by the report from the Committee, in this country, we do have sufficient statutes and legislation that deal with illegal movement of cash to the extent that there is no need for us to hide it through such standards when in effect, we have got an agenda which does not necessarily talk to such standards.
‘’Lastly, when you look at the civil penalties that are being proposed, you come to the realisation that the intention of this Bill is not progressive, it does not intend to build a better Zimbabwe.
‘’Whilst it is understandable that in any society organisations, human beings and every one of us has to abide by certain standards, rules and regulations but when we do it, we should do it just like when we do the prayer every time we commence Parliament, that we do laws which are for the good governance of this country. If you analyse the Bill, it was crafted with a motive targeting certain civic societies in the governance areas.
‘’If you then check, this country got independence in 1980 and you will realise that most of our freedom fighters got support from these civic societies and some of them were church-run. It is wrong for a party that claims to be standing on the shoulders of revolutionary and liberation legacy to then try to cut the freedom that was bestowed by a hard and protracted Second Chimurenga War that ushered this country in 1980. We cannot reverse those gains.
‘’Instead, what we should be doing is to ensure that we give as much freedom as possible to allow these civic societies to continuously move and operate and help the country to prosper. ‘’This is my view Madam Speaker and I believe strongly that the crafting of this Bill was wrongly done and was done with a wrong motive,’’ he said.