Understanding PVO Bill Amid Circumstances


The Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act is a legislation put in place in 1995 that provides for the registration of Private Voluntary Organizations and the regulation of donations that such organizations receive.

The PVO Bill is a Bill that seeks to amend the current PVO Act.
The first version of the Bill was sent to the President Emmersn Mnangangwa for his signature, but he had reservations about it and sent it back to the Parliament for reconsideration in 2023.

The Bill lapsed in 2023 during the 9th parliament and a new Bill had to be redrafted and gazetted.

The legislature had the time to rethink how PVOs ought to be justly regulated and to prepare a fresh Bill taking into account criticisms levelled against the old Bill.

The new Bill made no significant changes to the old Bill and failed to correct all the obvious errors that peppered the old one
How does the Bill affect Democracy?

It is undemocratic in the sense that it violates section 58 of the constitution i.e. freedoms of association, and movement which are guaranteed in the supreme law by prohibiting political activism by PVOs.

This might make the proposed amendments unconstitutional if they are not properly captured or implemented.
Its draws an unjustified or unwarranted link between Zimbabwe Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and terrorism.

The proposed changes to the law significantly shrink democratic space for civil engagement, diminishes the operational autonomy of the CSO sector and pushes the government ever closer to outright repression and heavy-handedness in the CSO sector.

A highly intrusive law might thus not be justified in a country with such low risk and high understanding of terrorist financing.

Is the bill bad?

The Bill is unconstitutional, hostile to freedom of association, ill-conceived and badly drafted.

The revised PVO Bill seeks to broaden the purview of non-governmental organizations that government aims to regulate.

If it is implemented, this effectively means that the activities of trusts and those that fall under common law and are allowed under Zimbabwean law would be considered unlawful.

It allocates too much power to the Minister, who in the end is also just a political actor.

The Minister has the arbitrary authority to direct PVO operations and set policies for them.

The Bill grants excessive authority to the Executive which is against the principles of separation of powers, accountability, and good corporate governance.

The law only targets PVOs, therefore government may misuse the law to target PVOs for closure citing them as terrorists’ organizations.

The Bill is prone to misinterpretations and abuse owing to vague definitions and provisions.